National / Politics

LDP seeks all-party talks on revising pacifist Constitution

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party called Thursday for all-party talks on revising the Constitution in areas they can agree upon, in an apparent bid to lower the bar for a first-ever revision of the U.S.-drafted charter.

The LDP aims to ultimately revise war-renouncing Article 9, a controversial proposal which presented by itself is unlikely to win early accord, opinion polls show.

Hajime Funada, head of the LDP’s body pushing for revisions, told the first discussion at the Lower House Commission on the Constitution since last November that parties should discuss amendments in spheres such as emergencies, environmental rights and fiscal discipline — areas which are more likely to secure cross-party support.

“It is urgent to stipulate in the Constitution (matters) such as extending the serving term of lawmakers in the event of large-scale disasters,” he said Thursday.

The LDP released a draft of potential amendments to the Constitution in 2012, which Funada said shows the direction in which the party would like to head — such as defining the Emperor as head of state.

He also said the LDP is willing to make concessions to other parties in order to gain the two-thirds support in both chambers of the Diet to hold a national referendum on amending the Constitution, as Article 96 stipulates.

“It’s an important responsibility of the Diet to discuss positive Constitutional revision that matches the time, and to draw a conclusion,” Funada said.

For the charter to be amended, more than 50 percent of the public must vote in favor of doing so in a national referendum. But opinion polls show a majority of people oppose revising Article 9, which has remained untouched since its enactment in 1947.

Five of the six parties that took part in the meeting agreed they should talk about the addition of articles to the Constitution dealing with emergencies, given that the nation is prone to natural disasters. The Japan Communist Party opposed the proposition.

Koichi Takemasa, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, argued that the parties should first discuss the LDP’s fundamental view that the Constitution needs to be revised because it was imposed by the U.S. during its occupation from the end of World War II until 1952.

Meanwhile, Akira Nagatsuma, deputy head of the DPJ, criticized the LDP’s plan to amend the Constitution in stages starting with less controversial issues to gain support from other parties and the public, before embarking on its ultimate goal to amend Article 9.

Funada rejected this reasoning, saying it is natural to begin with topics in which other parties share an interest.

The LDP’s 2012 draft includes amending Article 9, which bans the maintenance of a military and the use of force to settle international disputes. The change would formally allow Japan to give the Self-Defense Forces the status of a military.

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