A House of Councilors panel on the Constitution endorsed a final report Wednesday that cites the need to revise the supreme law to ensure new human rights concepts and agrees a female should be allowed to ascend the Imperial throne, but fails to declare a consensus on amending the war-renouncing Article 9.
The report by the 45-member Upper House Research Commission on the Constitution included conflicting arguments over the contentious issue of revising Article 9.
The 300-page report followed a similar document issued Friday by a House of Representatives counterpart panel. Both reports by the two chambers wrapped up five years of discussions since they were launched in January 2000.
Although the two panels differ on Article 9 and other issues, they have set the stage for the Diet to press ahead with debate on revising the Constitution, which has remained unchanged since its introduction in 1947.
“I would be happier if the people could use (the report) as a springboard for full debate on a constitutional amendment,” Katsutsugu Sekiya, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party and chairman of the Upper House panel, told reporters after Wednesday’s session.
The report was approved by the commission with a majority backed by the LDP, its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, and the Democratic Party of Japan. The Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party opposed.
The question now will be how the panel handles further debate as well as a planned bill to set procedures for a public referendum that is needed to change the Constitution.
The panel said it has carried out broad-ranging and comprehensive studies on the Constitution under four themes: the sovereignty of the people and how the nation is governed, fundamental human rights, pacifism and security, and general matters.
On Article 9, the report says the panel had “by and large a common understanding” of adhering to the war-renouncing Clause 1.
But while the panel reached a consensus that Japan should have the “minimum organization necessary for self defense,” it gave “conflicting views” on whether it was justifiable to amend Clause 2, which technically disallows Japan to possess a military under that name as well as the right to belligerency.
The panel members also differed over the status of the Self-Defense Forces, on whether the SDF should be specified as Japan’s military in the Constitution.
The report says most members acknowledged the importance of keeping civilian control of the SDF.
The Upper House panel’s view is in contrast with its Lower House counterpart’s report, which says a majority of its members did “not deny taking some sort of constitutional measures regarding the right to self-defense and the Self-Defense Forces” — suggesting Clause 2 be changed accordingly.
The Lower House panel’s views “go ahead of” the Upper House panel’s opinion, senior Upper House members said.
According to the report, some panel members who supported amending Clause 2 suggested it be revised in a way that would allow the Japan to maintain a military for its own defense and for international cooperation.
Some opponents argued that such a revision is not necessary because the government has already interpreted the Constitution as acknowledging the right of self-defense and the legitimacy of the SDF, enabling the SDF to contribute to the international society, according to the report.
On whether Japan can exercise the right to collective defense, which is prohibited under the government’s current interpretation of the Constitution, the report says panel members were split three ways: allow it, not allow it or allow it with restrictions.
There were differences among even those who supported the right: specify it in the Constitution or make it possible through constitutional interpretation, according to the report.
On other matters, the panel suggested, citing a majority opinion, that the Constitution be revised to stipulate new concepts of human rights, including privacy and environment.
On the emperor system, the report says there was a consensus on retaining the current system in which the emperor is the symbol of the state, and on allowing a female to ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Panel members have conflicting views concerning whether the emperor should be be specified as the head of state in the Constitution or interpreted as such, according to the report.
The panel said its members were in consensus — even among those from parties that rejected the overall report — that Japan should actively engage in international cooperation.
But views differed as to whether to stipulate in the Constitution Japan’s international contributions, and whether the nation should actively participate in peacekeeping operations or in a U.N.-backed multinational military force.
The report also cites a consensus that Japan should maintain a bicameral Diet.
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