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Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi indicated Wednesday that the government may study the possibility of revising existing legislation that prevents the Self-Defense Forces from taking part in U.N. military operations.

Responding to questions posed by Liberal Party lawmaker Hideo Watanabe during a plenary session of the Upper House, Obuchi said the government may “consider how the law (on the SDF’s U.N.-related activities) should be based on the ideals of the Constitution so that we may actively contribute to international peace.”

However, later in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said the Constitution only allows the SDF to participate in nonmilitary activities, and that there has been no shift in the government’s interpretation. “Peace activities themselves include a wide range of activities. We understand that what the Constitution currently allows our country to take part in are nonmilitary activities,” Nonaka said.

Nonaka added that the prime minister also meant that he will keep the principles written in the Constitution in mind when discussing the issue with the Liberal Party.

The Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations was originally enacted in 1992 to pave the way for the SDF to participate in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

It was revised prior to its enactment to allow SDF commanders taking part in such operations to order defensive fire if deemed necessary. However, SDF participation in the U.N.’s peacekeeping forces remains frozen.

In an agreement reached Nov. 19, Obuchi, who also heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and Liberal Party chief Ichiro Ozawa said the SDF will cooperate in U.N. peace activities at the request of the U.N. General Assembly or its Security Council. The agreement is the runup for a coalition government between the two parties.

“I would like to repeat that the government has not changed its interpretation over the Constitution,” Nonaka said.

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