The Japanese bishops' committee for peace and justice issues has sharply criticized its government's plans to pass new laws to allow the pacifist country's soldiers to fight overseas, saying passage of the measures would amount to "dictatorial domination."
In a letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the bishops' committee argues that the proposed laws are contrary to Japan's constitution, which renounces war and forbids the country's government from maintaining a military except for purposes of self-defense.
"This nation’s legal framework, constitutionalism, will be destroyed by enacting this bill," writes Bishop Taiji Katsuya, the chairman of the Japan Catholic Council for Justice and Peace. "What remains after constitutionalism is destroyed is dictatorial domination."
Abe, who has led Japan since 2012, has been pushing two bills through the Japanese legislature in recent weeks to allow the country to sign agreements for collective self-defense, obliging its military to respond if or when Japanese allies are attacked.
The bills have sparked large protests in Japan, where the ninth article of the constitution states bluntly: "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."
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In his letter on behalf of the bishops' committee, Katsuya says he and his group "strongly protest" what they call the "steamrolling" of the bills through the Parliament.
"Your cabinet stresses that a strong deterrent is indispensable for peace due to strained international relations," states Katsuya, the bishop of the northern Japanese city of Sapporo.
"However, if the exercise of a right to collective self-defense is permitted, the tension among nations and risk of terrorism will rise, the arms race will be promoted and military forces can be used overseas following the government’s arbitrary decision," he continues.
"It is against the Constitution to permit the exercise of a right to collective self-defense," Katsuya states. "This has been the Japanese government’s official stance for a long time. It is also the stance of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which consists of all attorneys in Japan, and a majority of constitutional scholars in Japan."