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Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Taku Yamasaki has drawn up a tentative draft for constitutional revisions that include changing the wording of Article 9 to clarify that Japan will maintain land, sea and air forces and has the right to self-defense, political sources said Sunday.

In addition, the blueprint says the Constitution should clearly state that Japan’s citizens have a duty to protect the country and that executive power, which is vested in the Cabinet under the current Constitution, be placed with the prime minister.

While Yamasaki had been penning the draft for some time, Diet sources said it is very rare for a person who carries as much weight as the No. 2 man in the party to propose possible revisions to the Constitution.

The paper comes at a time when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been suggesting that the Constitution be amended so the prime minister can be directly elected by the people.

Yamasaki’s draft scraps the wording of Article 9, which states that Japan will never maintain land, sea and air forces nor recognize the right of belligerency of the state, sources said.

His proposal would also allow Japan to exercise its right to collective defense, which the government has so far banned in its official interpretation of the Constitution.

As for obliging citizens to protect the state, Yamasaki’s belief is that Japan should not return to the conscription system it used before World War II.

As for the idea of directly electing the prime minister, Yamasaki’s draft outlines both the merits and demerits of such a system, noting that its incorporation will require clarifying the relationship of the Emperor to the head of state, the sources said.

In addition, Yamasaki also wants to include protection of privacy into the supreme code, as well as the people’s right to know. He would also ease the parliamentary conditions for passing amendments from the current “at least two-thirds” of the Diet to a less restrictive “support of the majority of Diet lawmakers” the sources said.

Research set to begin

The government is ready to research the issue of collective self-defense now that new Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has stated a willingness to review the legal parameters of Japan’s defensive capabilities, government sources said Sunday.

Under the government’s current interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution, Japan cannot exercise the right to collective self-defense, which is a provision guaranteed under the U.N. Charter that allows one country to help defend another under armed attack, even if not under attack itself.

The research will be led by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which is responsible for drawing up unified interpretations on legal matters, reviewing past statements by government officials, and examining whether it is possible to change the Constitution.

The Defense Agency will contribute to the study by listing the disadvantages Japan suffers from being unable to engage in collective self-defense, the sources said.

But uncertainty remains over whether the research will lead to changes in the current interpretation, because the ruling coalition is split, with New Komeito especially opposed to change. Some opposition parties are also strongly against any review.

The government has said that Japan, as a sovereign state, has the right of collective self-defense under international law but that the exercise of that right is not permissible under Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In his first press conference after taking office, Koizumi said Friday that he does not envisage any immediate change in the government’s interpretation, but that Japan needs to study the matter more carefully. “I think there is room for consideration,” he said.

His comments apparently encouraged the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, which is said to favor Japan’s use of its right to collective self-defense to strengthen bilateral security cooperation.

In a meeting Sunday in Kagoshima, New Komeito Secretary General Tetsuzo Fuyushiba reiterated his opposition to changing the interpretation, calling the move worrisome. “The use of the right to collective self-defense runs counter to our stance to respect our lives, living and existence,” Fuyushiba said.

Countering that stance, Defense Agency Director General Gen Nakatani and LDP Secretary General Taku Yamasaki have called for amending the Constitution itself to provide for collective defense, saying changing the interpretation is not enough.

Many LDP lawmakers belonging to the party’s National Defense Division are in favor of a limited change in the government’s interpretation so that the right can be executed under special circumstances, such as during joint drills with forces of other countries and in waters near Japan.

In the Defense Agency and the legislation bureau, the prevailing view is that the issue is “extremely difficult” as the government’s interpretation is the result of decades of discussions, a senior agency official said.

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