The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is considering introducing a new clause under Article 9 of the Constitution to refer to the Self-Defense Forces as an “organization which allows the minimum force necessary for self-defense,” a party source said Wednesday.
The envisioned new section is in line with a proposal made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wants to revise the war-renouncing article of the supreme law to include an explicit reference to the SDF.
Abe, also head of the LDP, has proposed keeping intact the existing paragraphs of Article 9 of the Constitution, drafted during the U.S.-led Occupation after World War II, and adding a reference to the SDF to ensure there is no room for them to be deemed “unconstitutional.”
The first paragraph of Article 9 says, “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
It is followed by a paragraph that says, “In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”
While the SDF are not specifically mentioned in the article, the government has interpreted the provision as not prohibiting Japan from possessing forces for its own defense.
Article 9 is the most contentious clause of the Constitution, with some constitutional scholars saying an organization even for self-defense violates the supreme law.
Under the LDP’s proposed changes, the Constitution will say that the existing provision “must not be interpreted to prevent the creation of the SDF,” according to the source.
It will also be written that the prime minister will have command over the SDF, and that the SDF will be under civilian control, the source said.
The idea for a new clause came out as the LDP’s constitutional reform panel began discussions Wednesday regarding a constitutional amendment proposal with an explicit reference to the SDF in Article 9.
Aiming to craft a proposal on amending the postwar Constitution by year’s end, the LDP hopes to work out a draft on the wording in fall at the earliest, with Komeito, the LDP’s coalition ally known for its dovish stance on defense issues.
Despite strong public protests, security legislation took effect last year, enabling the SDF, under certain conditions, to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or defending the United States and other allies even if Japan itself is not attacked.
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