National / Politics

At SDF ceremony, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renews pledge to revise Japan's pacifist Constitution


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his pledge Sunday to push for a revision to the country’s war-renouncing Constitution, in which he wants the Self-Defense Forces explicitly mentioned.

Speaking before a field of about 4,000 personnel during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base in Asaka, north of Tokyo, Abe said that a revision is needed to give his troops a sense of pride.

“You have gained public trust with your own hands,” Abe, wearing a tuxedo, told the troops in his address. “Now it’s time to fulfill our responsibility as politicians to accommodate an environment where all (in the) Self-Defense Force can accomplish their duties with sense of pride.”

About 260 tanks and other military vehicles and 40 warplanes were exhibited at the event.

Re-elected as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last month and with up to three more years as Japan’s leader, Abe is determined to pursue his long-sought charter amendment.

Many conservatives see Japan’s U.S.-drafted Constitution as a humiliation imposed after their World War II defeat.

When the SDF were established in 1954, public opinion was initially divided over its role, but today the force has gained support for its largely noncombat contribution in international peace-keeping efforts and disaster relief.

Abe wants to add a clause to Article 9 of the Constitution, which bans the use of force in settling international disputes, and wants to explicitly permit the existence of the SDF.

Opponents say such a revision is not necessary because the defense force is widely recognized in and outside the country as Japan’s military and that its constitutionality is no longer an issue.

The LDP has continuously expanded the force’s international role by loosening interpretations of Article 9. In 2015, his government passed a defense law allowing Japanese troops to defend U.S. and other allies in case of foreign attack — a fundamental change from its self-defense only policy.

Two-thirds approval is needed in both houses of the Diet to propose a revision, which would then be subject to a national referendum. Media surveys have shown most voters care more about their pay, education costs and the economy than a revision to the Constitution.