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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday again expressed his eagerness to add a clause on the existence of the Self-Defense Forces to the Constitution.

“We must create an environment in which SDF personnel can perform their duties with high morale and a sense of mission,” Abe said at a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

He made the remark when referring to his visit to the Maritime SDF’s Yokosuka base in February to see off an MSDF destroyer leaving for a Middle East mission aimed at protecting Japan-related ships.

Abe said that during the visit, he saw placards near the base criticizing the mission as a violation of the Constitution.

The SDF cadet training school scaled down this year’s graduation ceremony due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The number of participants stood at only 600, down from about 2,000 in normal years. Families of the graduates and other guests were not invited.

Only 18 representatives were handed diplomas during the ceremony, while only four younger students were allowed to attend the ceremony to sing the national anthem and the school song for those graduating.

The school broadcast the ceremony live online for the first time.

Abe praised the SDF personnel recently engaged in work related to the fight against the coronavirus, saying none of the SDF participants caught the virus.

“I want you to stay perfectly prepared all the time,” Abe said.

Japan will expand the roles it can play in order to strengthen its alliance with the United States further, Abe also said. The two countries’ security treaty was revised to the current one 60 years ago.

In fiscal 2019, the number of the National Defense Academy’s graduates totaled 508.

Those who finished the undergraduate course numbered 437 including 20 students from abroad. Of the 437, 60 were women.

Thirty-five graduates, down 14 from the previous year, declined to join the SDF for reasons such as the pursuit of careers in the private sector.

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