Photo/IllutrationA newly formed nationwide group of local leaders holds a meeting in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 17 to oppose changes to Article 9 of the Constitution. (Naomi Nishimura)

  • Photo/Illustraion

More than 100 local leaders formed a nationwide group on Nov. 17 to oppose Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revise war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

The group held its first meeting in Tokyo with about 250 people, including supporters, in attendance. A total of 131 former and incumbent mayors and governors have joined the group, officials said.

They plan to team up with more than 7,000 groups of the Kyujo no Kai (Article 9 Association) across Japan to solicit signatures for petitions and conduct other activities to defend the pacifist Constitution against revisions.

The eight co-representatives of the group include Reiko Matsushita, mayor of Musashino city in Tokyo, former Shiga Governor Masayoshi Takemura, and Katsusuke Ihara, former mayor of Iwakuni city in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

“The younger generation of people who don’t know about war is growing, and they are also becoming lawmakers,” Kenzo Chida, the 88-year-old former mayor of Yokote city in Akita Prefecture, said at the meeting. “Let us who know about war raise our voices.”

Another leader of the group criticized the central government for using local governments to recruit for the Self-Defense Forces.

“Forcing local governments to help recruit SDF members goes against the principle of decentralization of authority, which stipulates that the central government and local governments are in an equal and cooperative relationship,” the leader said.

Another group member said, “Construction of the new U.S. military base in the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, makes light of the Constitution and local autonomy.”

Abe has been proposing to add wording to Article 9 to legally recognize the SDF.

The second sentence of the article currently states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Abe plans to maintain the parts that say “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right” and “the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

Abe has said that such revisions will not change the SDF’s duties and power, and that he will continue arguing that the SDF’s existence is constitutional even if it is denied in a public referendum.