Just Defence expressed in constitutions


Some countries express their civilised defensive policies in their constitutions.

 South Korea

 The South Korean constitution, states that:

(1) The Republic of Korea endeavors to maintain international peace and renounces all aggressive wars.

(2) The Armed Forces are charged with the sacred mission of national security and the defense of the land and their political neutrality must be maintained.

Article 5  http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/ks00000_.html


Article 58 of Switzerland’s constitution states that its army “serves to prevent war and contributes to maintain peace; it defends the country and its population. It supports the civil authorities to repel serious threats to internal security or to cope with other exceptional circumstances”.

Adhering strictly to its policy of neutrality, Switzerland has participated in operations in support of peace or activities of multilateral cooperation: the destruction of arms, arms control and disarmament, demining and disaster relief. http://www.nato-otan.org/issues/nato-switzerland/index-f.html


Article 9 of Japan’s constitution says that Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes . . . The right of aggression of the state will not be recognized. Sadly, after many years resisting pressure from the USA land despite public opposition as about 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Tokyo in 2015 against the proposed law and despite vigorous protests in Japan’s Diet, after 110 hours of debate, security bill legislation was passed through a House of Representatives panel which would enable Japan to exercise “collective self-defence”- allowing its armed forces to fight alongside allies such as the US.

Costa Rica

Article 12 of the Costa Rican constitution proscribed the army in 1949. As President Monge said in London in 1984: “We are irrevocably opposed to war: our neutrality is unarmed . . . There is no such thing as a military solution . . .We choose education, health and the welfare of our people . . . we do not have resources for both these and an army”.

In 2003, when the Costa Rican government announced its approval of America’s attack on Iraq, a university student sued the government, claiming it was a violation of the constitution and the nation’s spirit of political neutrality. A year later the court ruled that the government’s stance was unconstitutional and the government withdrew its support for the Iraq War.

Other countries also act in a civilised manner, but without explicit constitutional provision:

New Zealand

Stating that “ New Zealand is not directly threatened by any other country and is not likely to be involved in widespread armed conflict”, the Defence Policy Framework: June 2000, summarised the country’s primary defence interests were as protecting New Zealand’s territorial sovereignty, meeting shared alliance commitments to Australia and fulfilling obligations and responsibilities in the South Pacific and the wider Asia-Pacific strategic environment. http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/downloads/pdf/public-docs/defencepolicyframeworkjune2000.pdf

Making its way through New Zealand’s parliamentary process is the International Non-Aggression and the Lawful Use of Force Bill which would make it a criminal offence for any New Zealand leader to commit an act of international aggression.


Sweden sees that the threat of invasion has long disappeared, and a single armed attack targeted directly at Sweden is unlikely for the foreseeable future. http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/10448/a/123010

The mission of the Swedish Armed Forces is to help prevent and address crises by participating in missions to promote peace by tasks ranging from demining, monitoring ceasefires and peace agreements and implementing conflict prevention measures to humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace enforcing operations. http://www.mil.se/upload/dokumentfiler/publikationer/swedish-armed-forces-2009.pdf 

Membership of Nato is not on the political agenda during this government’s four years in office because of an agreement between the four parties in government.

South Africa

In 1998 the first popular and open discussions on defence policy contributed to a Defence Review which presented four options.  

The fourth was not the recommended option, and initially there was some reluctance to consider it. It advocated the same level of defence as Option 1 [recommended] but within the framework of a defensive posture. It enhanced the role of territorial protection, air defence capabilities, increased helicopter support and heightened naval capabilities, with a greater emphasis on inshore patrolling. http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/Books/OurselvesToKnow/Williams.pdf

Measures to modify such defence policies in several of the countries named, include:

  • the secret accord made in 1960 between Tokyo and Washington and recently made public; it allowed U.S. nuclear weapons to move through Japanese territory, violating Japan’s three non-nuclear principles of banning production, possession and carrying in of nuclear weapons; it is said to have been destroyed just before the Japanese Information Disclosure Law June 09  http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090601a1.html
  • the gathering of an ‘Asian Nato’, composed of Asia Pacific states: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, under the direction of individual NATO nations; activities include establishment of bases and positioning of military, combat forces, live-fire military, air and naval exercises; recruiting and deploying troops from Asian nations to war zones like those in Afghanistan and Iraq;  Russia, China, Laos, Myanmar, North Korea, Bhutan, Iran and Syria are not involved. http://www.tni.org/detail_page.phtml?act_id=17299


  • the implicit pressure to lift the ban imposed on nuclear-powered ships by  New Zealand in 1984; since then the US Navy has refused to send even non-nuclear powered ships to New Zealand ports. In March and September this year it has been reported that Admiral Timothy Keating, head of US military forces in the Pacific, still wants New Zealand’s ban on nuclear-powered ships lifted.

Some reassurance

More reassuring are the increasing trade links between the ‘Asian Nato’ countries and those outside the charmed circle – the most recent being a South Korean-led consortium which includes India & Burma. It is to invest billions of dollars in a project to supply Burmese gas to China over 30 years and a pipeline between the countries which will bypass the current route for more than 60 per cent of China’s oil imports. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/72e2cbb6-919d-11de-879d-00144feabdc0.html

Though some deplore this as shoring up the Burmese military junta it is to be hoped that  substantial regional trade links will be more influential than military alignments over time.

A change of tone: a call from the secretary-general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, for an “open-minded and unprecedented dialogue” with Russia to reduce security tensions in Europe and confront common threats. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3afca064-a22d-11de-9caa-00144feabdc0.html

Finally: despite criticism from the ‘hawks’ and the loss of multi-billion dollar contracts to powerful American arms companies, US President Barack Obama has shelved plans for controversial bases in Poland and the Czech Republic in a major overhaul of missile defence in Europe.


In 2009 people in Britain listened to the words of First World War survivor Harry Patch with respect. His definition of war was: “War is organised murder, and nothing else . . . the calculated and condoned slaughter of human beings”.

He noted “At the end, the peace was settled round a table” and asked “so why the hell couldn’t they do that at the start without losing millions of men? . . . It was not worth it… not worth one death let alone all the millions”. 

Is the British public slowly becoming more aware of the unjustifiable cost of war?


 BP: Oct 09



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