Powell links Japan UN seat to ‘pacifist’ constitution

TOKYO, Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Japan must consider revising its pacifist constitution if it wanted to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, Kyodo news agency reported on Friday.

Article Nine of Japan’s postwar, U.S. drafted constitution, renounces the right to go to war and forbids a military, although it is interpreted as permitting forces for self defense.

“If Japan is going to play a full role on the world stage and become a full active participating member of the Security Council, and have the kind of obligations that it would pick up as a member of the Security Council, Article Nine would have to be examined in that light,” Kyodo quoted Powell as saying.

“But whether or not Article Nine should be modified or changed is absolutely and entirely up to the Japanese people to decide because the United States would not presume an opinion,” he added in an interview with Japanese media in Washington on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a lawmaker for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s ruling party last month that Japan must revise the constitution and play a greater military role for international peace if it wanted a permanent seat on the Security Council, Japanese media have reported.

Japan has sent troops to help rebuild Iraq in a strictly non-combat role.

Both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party are working on proposals to revise the constitution, but many ordinary citizens and lawmakers are opposed.

A Mainichi Shimbun newspaper poll published in May showed that 78 percent of Japanese lawmakers were in favor of making some changes to the document but 70 percent were against changing Article Nine.

Powell also reiterated that the United States intended to take legal action against Charles Robert Jenkins, a U.S. Army sergeant accused of deserting to North Korea in 1965 and now in Japan for medical treatment.

He is married to a Japanese woman who was abducted to North Korea but returned home two years ago.

The United States has said it wants him to face court-martial but has held off seeking custody while he is in hospital.

“We are working with the Japanese government and Mr. Jenkins is in touch with various people as to how he might deal with this matter in a legal sense,” Powell said.

“Right now, he is under medical care and that comes first. We are not pressing on our case,” he added.

Powell wanted Japan to think again about a decision to invest in a US$2 billion project to tap Iran’s Azadegan oil field, saying he hoped Japan would take into account Iran’s suspected nuclear plans.