George Will
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The unsatisfactory alternatives to revision are for Japan either to abandon its determination to become a ``normal'' nation, or to continue concocting sophistical interpretations of Article 9. Koizumi pushed the limits of Article 9 by sending five ships to the Indian Ocean to assist forces in Afghanistan -- two supply ships and three destroyers to guard them. Then in 2004, in the first deployment of Japanese troops to a war zone since 1945, he sent 600 soldiers to Iraq -- but not for combat.

Last month North Korea, which has many medium-range missiles that can strike Japan, launched seven missiles into the Sea of Japan. The 800 Chinese missiles targeting Taiwan could also strike Japan, which in 2005 joined the United States in saying that a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan dispute is a crucial security interest. In June of this year, Japan agreed to jointly produce anti-missile defenses with the United States. Some will be deployed on five Aegis destroyers belonging to Japan's highly sophisticated navy and assisted by Japan's spy satellites.

All this while Article 9 says that sea and other forces shall never be ``maintained.'' The Self-Defense Forces are maintained by a $45 billion defense budget, the world's fourth largest.

In the first three months of this year Japan scrambled fighter jets 107 times in response to what were assumed to be Chinese spy planes provocatively close to Japan's air space. A Chinese submarine has made an incursion into Japan's territorial waters, and the two nations are disputing whose waters cover disputed oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea. Surely it is time for Japan to end the dissonance between its necessary behavior and its constitution's text, a contradiction that can complicate policymaking and produce national paralysis.

This matters to Americans because East Asia -- its share of global GDP, now more than 20 percent, is projected to be 27 percent by 2020 -- matters. And because rising China and demented North Korea complicate regional security. And because the list of economically formidable nations that are without virulent anti-Americanism and are eager to collaborate with America is short. The list is: Japan.

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George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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