Japanese News: Changing article 9 of the Constitution? Discussions inside the LDP

The article I propose to study was published on NHK Yesterday: 憲法9条2項”の扱い 自民 党内意見集約に時間かかるか

Political articles are by far the most difficult ones… Today, I want to try to study one and get more familiar with some political vocabulary that is bound to appear often in the news. I want to slowly broaden my vocabulary for politics, to be able to understand what an article is about by only looking at the title or having a quick glance at its contents.

For example, knowing the word 憲法・けんぽう (Constitution) is enough to guess that this article is about the amendment of the Constitution.

I have made a list of words that are necessary to understand this article and useful to read the political news in general:

  • 憲法改正・けんぽうかいせい means “amendment of the Constitution”. This is a word that frequently appears in the news because revising the Constitution is one of Abe’s main goals.
  • Directly related to the Constitutional revision is the 自衛隊の明記 or the “clear mention of the Self-Defence Force”.
    • 明記・めいき: as the kanji suggest, this word means “clear mention”, “clear writing”. I think that it is a formal word used in administrative context.
    • 自衛隊・じえいたい: the Self-Defense Forces of Japan, often shortened as SDF. This is an important word to read politics. Japan has Self-Defense Forces. The problem is that the article 9 of the Constitution states that Japan should not maintain a war potential. It is not clear whether the SDF is authorised by the Constitution because, as it stands, the article 9 states that Japan should not maintain military forces. The discussions around the article 9 aim at giving the SDF a concrete existence in the Constitution.
  • 自民党・じみんとうLiberal Democratic Party. The entire appellation is 自由民主党・じゆうみんしゅとう. The LDP is the party in power in Japan. Our article mentions that even inside the LDP, it is hard to find an agreement on how the article 9 should be revised.
  • 幹部・かんぶ means “a leading member”, an “executive officer” or “the managing staff”. In our context (plenary session of the House of Representatives) I think we can use the terms “lawmakers”, “senior politicians” or “legislators” (…?)
  • 戦力の不保持・せんりょくのふほじ. Literally: the non-maintenance of military capability. Article 9 of the Constitution states that Japan renounces the right of belligerency. How to amend this article 9 is precisely what is being discussed at the moment, among the LDP members.
  • 合憲性・ごうけんせい: constitutionality. Revising the article 9 by adding an explicit reference to the SDF would ensure that no controversy would arise concerning the constitutionality of the SDF.

Other words to know:

  • 国会・こっかい: the National Diet.
  • 衆議院・しゅうぎいん: the House of Representatives, the lower House of the National Diet
  • 参議院・さんぎいん: the House of Councillors, the upper House of the National Diet
  • 本会議・ほんかいぎ: a plenary session (of the Diet).

To resume the article, there are different opinions 異論・いろん inside the LPD 自民党・じみんとう concerning how the article 9 of the Constitution should be changed. The main idea is to make a clear mention of the SDF (自衛隊の明記). One proposition is to keep the two paragraphs of article 9 as they are and add a paragraph that would mention the SDF and confirm its existence (自衛隊の存在を規定する条文を追加する案). The idea is to end the controversy about whether the Self-Defence Forces are constitutional or not (自衛隊の合憲性に議論). But other opinions arise: some say that the Diet should also revise the second paragraph (2項の改正を主張している), while other say that stating the existence of the SDF is not enough and propose to add that the SDF can exercise without being hindered (自衛権の発動を妨げない) (I am not sure concerning the translation of this last point…).

All citations come from the NHK article linked above.

Every time I start reading such an article, I feel discouraged and too lazy to even try. If I do try, however, I am surprised to see that there were no real difficulty in it. The many kanji, long sentences and unknown names make the article look scary but a little effort can put us through it!