The ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Wednesday it is weighing both moderate and drastic revisions of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, as it summarized its discussions on constitutional amendment in an interim report.
The LDP may lean toward revisions to Article 9 proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as party president, that are seen as moderate.
But the party appears to have decided not to rush to a conclusion just yet, out of consideration for members who are calling for more drastic change.
Abe proposed in May to add to Article 9 an explicit reference to the Self-Defense Forces without changing the existing two paragraphs. He has said the lack of such a reference leaves room for debate over whether an organization even for self-defense contravenes the pacifist charter.
In the interim report that details “points of argument” on the constitutional amendment, the LDP said there were “no objections” among party members over the view that the SDF is “essential” in ensuring the country’s peace and independence.
But regarding the manner in which the SDF should be referenced, the report cited two possible approaches — in addition to the revision advocated by Abe, an alternative revision that would delete Article 9’s second paragraph that renounces the right to maintain military forces and other war potential.
The second paragraph has complicated the status of the SDF, setting various restrictions on the organization’s strength based on the idea that it is different from an ordinary “military.”
The interim report was presented during a plenary meeting of LDP members to discuss constitutional revisions — the last one for this year. It also touched on three other topics the LDP believes should be revised, including changes aimed at enhancing equal access to education and dealing better with national emergency situations.
The report did not show any specific time schedule for pursuing the first-ever amendment of the postwar Constitution, which is Abe’s long-cherished goal. But it said, “We will hold constructive talks (toward initiating a formal amendment process), such as by seriously considering concrete proposals and opinions formed by parties and parliamentary groups.”
The LDP is expected to enter talks with other parties next year on the issue, while continuing work to draw up its own amendment proposals.
“We must work out proposals everyone can agree with and support. That is the fastest way (to achieve constitutional reform),” Hiroyuki Hosoda, head of the LDP’s headquarters promoting constitutional revision, told reporters.
The LDP, its junior coalition ally Komeito and other pro-constitutional reform forces control two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Diet, which must initiate any amendment. Any proposal would need to be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.
Media polls have shown that the public is split over Abe’s proposal on mentioning the SDF. Many are apparently cautious that any change to Article 9 could lead to a watering down of the pacifism embedded in the Constitution.
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, a new party that became the largest opposition force in the Lower House following the Oct. 22 general election, opposes Abe’s proposed revision.