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Abe explicit in call for amendment to Constitution’s Article 9

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday called for changing the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, saying there is a contradiction between the existence of the Self-Defense Forces and a ban on Japan maintaining armed forces.

The Constitution’s second paragraph says: “Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”

Abe called for amending this text, citing a draft revised constitution tabled by his ruling Liberal Democratic Party in April 2012.

Abe told the House of Representatives Budget Committee that the Constitution was created during the U.S. Occupation after World War II and that “some parts do not fit into the current period.”

“There is the view that (Japan should) address the situation in which 70 percent of constitutional scholars suspect the SDF is in violation of the Constitution,” he said.

“Given the view that we should change this with our own hands, the LDP has announced a draft revised constitution.”

The U.S.-drafted Constitution has remained unaltered since its promulgation in November 1946.

Abe said public support for the SDF is “unshakable” due to the activities of troops at home and overseas since the forces’ inception more than 60 years ago.

The LDP’s draft “specifies that Japan possesses the right to self-defense and stipulates that an organization will be set up for self-defense,” he said.

The prime minister was responding to a question by Tomomi Inada, chairwoman of the LDP Policy Research Council, who advocates amending the Constitution.

Under Article 96 of the Constitution, revisions to the Constitution can be proposed by two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the Diet and must be approved by a majority of people in a referendum.

At present, the LDP and its coalition partner, the Komeito party, have a two-thirds majority in the Lower House and a majority in the House of Councilors.

In an effort to deepen national debate about a constitutional amendment, Abe has said he will make the subject a campaign issue in the Upper House election this summer.

The opposition Osaka Ishin no Kai (Initiatives from Osaka) has expressed its willingness to help Abe win the more than two-thirds of the seats it needs in the Upper House poll so as to initiate an amendment to the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Abe expressed willingness to visit Iran at a time when countries have begun improving relations with Tehran after it and six major powers struck a landmark nuclear agreement last summer.

Speaking at Wednesday’s session of the Lower House Budget Committee, Abe stressed the significance of strengthening ties with Iran, saying the international community needs Iran’s “constructive engagement” in tackling the civil war in Syria and fighting Islamic State group extremists operating in the Middle East.

Abe also pointed to Tehran’s rich oil and natural gas reserves, as well as its potential as a major export market for Tokyo.

“Japan can by no means lag behind” other countries in developing ties with Iran, he said in response to a question by LDP lawmaker Kentaro Sonoura.