JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he sees no need to explain to China and South Korea his cherished goal of rewriting the pacifist Constitution.
“It is our country’s Constitution, so it is not an issue that needs to be explained” to China and South Korea, Abe told reporters Wednesday accompanying him on his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Abe said that to achieve his goal he will aim to secure a two-thirds majority in the Upper House in this summer’s election.
He said any reaction from China or South Korea over his attempt to achieve the revision will “not influence” the course of political discussions.
Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have become frayed over the territorial rows and recent visits by Cabinet ministers to Yasukuni Shrine, where Japan’s war dead are honored along with convicted war criminals.
China and South Korea, which see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism, have been irked by Abe’s right-leaning political stance.
Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party believes that the current Constitution was created under the heavy influence of the U.S. Occupation and it is no longer sufficient to “protect the people, territory and sovereignty.”
Among many constitutional amendment plans, the ruling party aims to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 to enable the Self-Defense Forces to become a full military.
Abe, who has until now focused more on reviving the economy, suggested that whether it is necessary to rewrite the war-renouncing Constitution will be a major issue in the upcoming Upper House campaign.
The prime minister, whose Cabinet has enjoyed high approval ratings since its formation in December, said “there is no change” regarding the LDP pushing for constitutional revision.
“I want to start with Article 96,” he said, referring to the provision that states constitutional amendments must be backed by a vote of at least two-thirds of all members of each Diet chamber.
Relaxing this requirement will make it easier to rewrite the Constitution, which has not been amended since it was enforced in 1947.
Together with junior coalition partner New Komeito, the LDP returned to power after three years in opposition on the strength of a landslide victory in the Lower House in December.
New Komeito, backed by the major lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, has adopted a cautious stance on revising the Constitution
But Abe’s LDP can rely on the support of the Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and other political groups to achieve the two-thirds majority in the more powerful Lower House.
Abe said he wants to discuss constitutional issues with his coalition partner “with sincerity.”
Abe, who is on a four-nation tour through Saturday, was in Saudi Arabia after visiting Russia.