• Kyodo

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party plans to focus on four areas as it drafts proposals for the first-ever amendments to the postwar Constitution, including revisions to the war-renouncing Article 9 and changes to education policy, officials said Tuesday.

The LDP is working toward amending the supreme law after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as head of the party, made a controversial proposal for the revision of Article 9 last month, calling for a plan to be crafted by the end of the year.

Okiharu Yasuoka, the head of the party’s constitutional reform panel, said Tuesday that a “concrete proposal” will be drawn up by the end of the year and sent to the Constitution Commissions in both houses of the Diet.

To expedite the process, the LDP has increased the number of senior members who will play leading roles in discussions to around 20 from nine. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who has been critical of Abe’s proposal to acknowledge the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9, is also a core member.

Yasuoka said discussions will center on four areas — the recognition of the SDF, expanded free education, a better system to deal with national emergencies and the end of a controversial measure to treat two prefectures as one electoral district to address vote weight disparities created by population differences.

He said the order of addressing the issues has yet to be decided.

Abe, in a video message shown at a May 3 gathering of people supportive of constitutional reform, insisted that the SDF should be explicitly referred to in the text of Article 9, which currently makes no mention of it.

Article 9 renounces war and gives up the right to maintain military forces and other “war potential.” It is the most well-known and contentious clause of the Constitution, which conservatives often decry as a product of the U.S.-led occupation after defeat in World War II.

The government has interpreted Article 9 as not prohibiting Japan from maintaining its ability to defend itself and thus allowing defense forces. Under the article, the SDF’s activities have faced various restrictions such as over the use of weapons overseas.

Abe has said the intention of his proposed revision is to prevent the SDF — which the public largely supports — from being deemed by scholars and others as “unconstitutional.”

But critics say that depending on the wording, the revision of Article 9 may end up loosening constraints on the SDF and erode Japan’s postwar pacifism.

The ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito and other pro-reform forces currently have two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Diet, which is required to initiate an amendment. The proposal then must be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.

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