THERE is much that is sensible in the landmark call by Japan's largest and most influential newspaper for a revision of the country's 48-year-old US-dictated constitution to bring it in line with the realities of modern Japan. It is certainly time the existence of the Japanese Self Defence Forces was recognised. The Self Defence Forces are with us, are generously and expensively equipped and have long been considered an essential contribution to Japan's defence by an America which is reluctant to pay for its own role as world policeman. Nevertheless any suggestion that the role of those forces should be changed to project Japanese power beyond its frontiers should be avoided. Much as the West, and many in Japan itself, would like to see Tokyo playing a larger part in international military co-operation rather than simply contributing money and logistical support for United Nations humanitarian operations, the rest of Asia would be deeply disturbed at the prospect. For while a minority in the region would like to see Japan develop as a counterweight to the increasing military might of China, the memory of the Japanese rape of Asia still burns too strongly in the public mind. Many Asian people still have vivid memories of how their loved ones were killed. Not even a change of name from Self Defence Forces to army should be contemplated. Whatever the realities of the situation, symbolism counts for much in international relations. A Japanese build-up of offensive rather than defensive power, for instance, could further stimulate the regional arms race. Much of Asia already fears the power of India and China. The thought that Japan might revert to its old habit of expansionism by military rather than economic means could destabilise the whole of East Asia. By all means modernise the constitution, but keep militarism firmly in its place.