Japan must change Constitution to change nation: Abe

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will use Constitution Day to issue a statement Thursday repeating his call to revise the nation’s charter, saying Japan can no longer overhaul its administrative system, or central-local government relations or the basic framework for foreign and security policies unless it does so.

“We face the need to review the Constitution,” Abe will say in the statement, released early to the press. This year is the 60th anniversary of the charter’s coming into force.

Abe’s comments are in sharp contrast to the 1997 statement by the late Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto on the Constitution’s 50th anniversary. Hashimoto promised Japan would be committed to making “active contributions to the peace and prosperity of the international community under the philosophy of the Constitution.”

Abe’s statement was to be issued in Tokyo in his absence. He was to return to Japan later in the day from a weeklong visit to the United States and the Middle East.

Public debate on changing the Constitution has mostly focused on Article 9, which states: “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

“In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

The Diet is expected to pass a bill setting procedures for a referendum on amending the Constitution during the regular session, which ends June 23. The bill is currently in the House of Councilors.

The Constitution states that amendments must have the support of two-thirds of both Diet chambers and then be endorsed by the public in a national referendum. However, there is no legislation setting the rules for such a vote.

“Japanese society has faced major changes that could not be imagined at the time of the enactment of the Constitution,” such as economic globalization and the progress of science and technology, Abe’s statement says.

“A bold review of Japan’s postwar regime and an in-depth discussion of the Constitution toward realizing a ‘new Japan’ would create a spirit for laying a new path to a new era,” the statement says.

Abe repeatedly has pledged to keep the issue of constitutional revision at the top of his agenda, ever since he began campaigning last September to become leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

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