Abe says he will tackle Constitution, including Article 9

by Hiroko Nakata

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to revise the Constitution, including the war-renouncing Article 9, because he believes it has become outdated over the 60 years since the end of the war, a government official quoted him as saying Tuesday.

This is the first time Abe has made clear his intention to amend Article 9 since becoming prime minister in September, although he has long been an advocate of changing the Constitution.

Abe’s comment comes at a time when North Korea’s suspected nuclear test in early October has heightened tensions throughout Asia.

“I believe we should revise Article 9 from the point of view that we should protect Japan, and that the country should make a global contribution (to security),” the official quoted Abe as saying in an interview with the British newspaper the Financial Times.

“I want to aim at a revision of the Constitution during my tenure,” Abe was also quoted as saying.

Abe made amending the Constitution one of his top election pledges, but he has played it down since taking office.

The comments follow on the heels of a controversy sparked by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer’s suggestion Friday that Tokyo should shoot down any ballistic missiles that fly over Japanese territory toward the United States. Such action would require a major shift in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution, which, according to current thinking, bars collective defense.

Abe also said in the interview the Constitution should be revised because it was drafted during the Occupation, and that it should include new elements such as protection of the environment and privacy, the official said.

But revising the document will not be easy. Two-thirds of both houses of the Diet must approve any amendment, which would then have to be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

The Liberal Democratic Party released a draft for a new Constitution last year to coincide with the party’s 50th anniversary. It includes a revision of Clause 2 in Article 9 to allow Japan to possess a “military” in place of the Self-Defense Forces.

Peace activist ad blitz

Kyodo News Citizens’ groups and activists are planning to place advertisements in newspapers in about 20 countries on Friday to publicize the war-renouncing provisions of the Constitution to mark its 60th anniversary, according to one of the groups.

Peace Boat said the advertisement includes the text of Article 9 and explains how there are growing calls in Japan to revise it. The article says, “The 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 ad expresses concern that changing the provisions of Article 9 will pave the way for Japan to start wars.

The groups put similar advertisements in 12 newspapers in eight economies, including Japan, South Korea, Russia, the Philippines and Taiwan, on the anniversary of the end of the war for Japan.