• Kyodo

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The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will not seek to expand the activities of the Self-Defense Forces through a possible revision of war-renouncing Article 9, according to the head of the LDP’s constitutional reform panel.

“We will clearly state the existence of the Self-Defense Forces without changing an inch of the current government’s interpretation” of the Constitution’s war-renouncing article, Okiharu Yasuoka said Monday at a meeting of the reform panel.

Pushing the first-ever amendment of the Constitution, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed in May that the SDF be stated explicitly in Article 9, while keeping intact the existing two paragraphs that renounce war and abjure the right to maintain military forces and other war potential.

But Komeito, the LDP’s coalition ally known for its dovish stance on defense issues, and some opposition parties have expressed concerns that the change, depending on the wording, could result in the loosening of historic constraints imposed on the SDF.

Yasuoka’s remarks were likely intended to show that he is taking heed to such concerns. Abe also told a Diet committee in May that keeping the existing paragraphs would mean that the restrictions imposed on the SDF will “basically remain.”

The LDP’s constitutional reform panel began discussions last week to craft amendment proposals by the end of the year, focusing on areas including revisions regarding Article 9 and cost-free education.

The proposals are to be presented for further discussion to the Diet’s commissions on the Constitution.

Conservatives often decry Article 9 as a product of the U.S.-led Occupation after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

While the SDF is not specifically mentioned in it, the government has interpreted Article 9 as not prohibiting Japan from maintaining the ability to defend itself and thus allowing the existence of defense forces. But some scholars have said an organization even for self-defense violates the letter of the article.

To what extent Japan is allowed to take measures for self-defense under Article 9 has also been a sensitive issue.

Security legislation that took effect last year has enabled the SDF, under certain conditions, to exercise the right of collective self-defense. This means Japan can defend the United States and other allies even if Japan itself is not attacked. Previous governments had considered this unconstitutional and the change under Abe stirred strong public protests.

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