Thousands vow to protect Japan's pacifist constitution from changes
Thousands of activists, artists and scholars gathered Sunday for an international peace conference outside Tokyo, vowing to promote the Japanese Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 as a global standard and prevent the clause from being weakened, AP reported.
Participants in the three-day "Global Article 9 Conference to Abolish War" held in Chiba prefecture included Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland and Beate Sirota Gordon, an original drafter of the Japanese Constitution in 1947.
"We believe that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution constitutes a world-class model for peace and should be protected as a global treasure for future generations," the event's organizers said in a statement.
But, it added, "there are increasingly vocal calls from within Japan to get rid of this article of the constitution."
Article 9 prohibits the use of military force as a means of settling international disputes. Critics have said that a constitutional change could rattle Asian neighbors with bitter memories of past Japanese imperialism.
The Japanese Constitution, drafted by U.S. occupation officials after World War II, has never been amended.
Last year, parliament approved a plan for a constitutional referendum, with a possible vote as early as 2010. The legislative victory was a major boost for then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive to give the armed forces a larger global role.
Organizers of Sunday's event, including the groups Peace Boat and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, say the principles of Article 9 can be applied globally to issues such as human rights, disarmament, the environment and development.
Similar gatherings are to be held in Hiroshima on Monday and in Sendai and Osaka on Tuesday.