Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday said his administration would try to revise the Constitution, updating it for the new realities of today’s world. He said amending the pacifist text is one of the Liberal Democratic Party’s most sought-after goals.
“I want to deepen public discussion about the way the Constitution should be, to match a new era,” Abe said during a question-and-answer session in the Lower House. “And based on such deepening of discussion, I will firmly and steadily work to revise the Constitution.”
Abe is widely expected to set his sights on grappling with constitutional revision if the ruling camp clears the Upper House election next year.
To lay the groundwork, the LDP is reportedly hoping to start talks with other parties as early as March and draft a list of constitutional amendments other parties would back.
Abe also spoke about the contentious issue of collective self-defense. He said that once his security legislation is passed, Japanese troops could be allowed to engage in mine-sweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pointing out that some 80 percent of Japan’s crude oil imports and 20 percent of its natural gas pass through the strait, Abe said that closure of the waterway could meet the criteria required for collective self-defense response.
His remarks suggested that the Maritime Self-Defense Force might deploy to conflict zones even if hostilities are in progress.
The principle of collective self-defense requires that Japan’s survival be at stake, or that its citizens’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be fundamentally threatened, in order for the right to be exercised.
“It’s the kind of situation that could pose serious damage, equivalent to our country being under armed attack,” Abe said.
The mine-sweeping operation was among several scenarios the Abe Cabinet cited in its push to make collective self-defense a reality. But coalition partner Komeito insisted that mine-sweeping should be the domain of the police.
Even though Japan has enough crude oil reserves to last about six months, if it is unable to secure sea lanes from mines it might experience a serious energy disruption, he said.
Abe also pledged to pursue a policy he dubs “proactive contribution to peace” and proceed with security legislation to expand the range of potential SDF missions overseas, including peacekeeping.
He said security threats easily cross borders these days, so it is important that Japan do more to bring peace and stability to the Asia-Pacific region and the world.
“We will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the international community in more proactive ways. And for that we need the SDF to play more roles,” Abe said.