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Japan’s Self-Defense Defense

CAMBRIDGE – Since the end of World War II, Japan has been ruled by an American-written “peace constitution,” Article 9 of which prohibits war and limits Japanese forces to self-defense. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now seeking legislation to enable Japan to reinterpret the constitution to include “collective self-defense,” whereby the country would enhance its security cooperation with other countries, particularly its closest ally, the United States.

Critics view this as a radical departure from seven decades of pacifism. But Abe’s central objectives – improving Japan’s ability to respond to threats that do not amount to armed attack; enabling Japan to participate more effectively in international peacekeeping activities; and redefining measures for self-defense permitted under Article 9 – are actually relatively modest.