• Kyodo


New Komeito, the junior member of the ruling coalition, will pledge to protect the pacifist Constitution for the Upper House election, opening a rift with nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party, a policy draft showed Sunday.

The draft, obtained by Kyodo News, also said New Komeito will try to re-establish regular meetings between Japanese and Chinese leaders to mend diplomatic relations frayed by Japan’s nationalization of a tiny set of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea last September and by historical disputes.

Despite its more than decade-long alliance with Abe’s conservative LDP, New Komeito is clearly seeking to distance itself from the revisionist leader’s party before the House of Councilors election slated for July.

New Komeito, backed by the major lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, believes that the pacifist nature of the Constitution must be upheld, including Japan’s three non-nuclear principles of not producing, possessing or allowing nuclear weapons on Japanese territory.

It will also propose that Japan host an international summit on eliminating nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 2015.

The LDP, which made a strong return to power in December’s Lower House election, is on a quest to rewrite the Occupation-influenced Constitution so it can turn the Self-Defense Forces into a standing military and engage in collective self-defense, banned by war-renouncing Article 9.

To alter Article 9, the LDP thinks it must officially start by watering down Article 96, which spells out the voting majorities needed to pass amendments and to hold public referendums on them.

New Komeito plans to finalize its election pledges by the end of the month after further discussions on Article 96, which states that any initiative to amend the Constitution must be supported by a two-thirds majority in each house in the Diet.

Unlike Abe’s LDP, New Komeito is also cautious about restarting more of the nation’s nuclear reactors without proper public support, the draft says. Of the 50 viable reactors idled since the March 2011 Fukushima core meltdowns, only two have been restarted.

New Komeito’s pledges are divided into five parts — reconstruction of the March 2011 disaster zones, economic recovery, social welfare and educational reform, administrative and fiscal reform, and foreign policy.

On social welfare, which New Komeito is emphasizing along with the Constitution, the party will pledge to reduce the number of children on nursery school waiting lists to zero in five years.

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