National / Politics

Abe laments missing goal of amending Japan's Constitution by 2020

Kyodo, Jiji

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday expressed regret for failing to realize his goal of bringing about by 2020 a first-ever amendment to Japan’s pacifist Constitution.

But in a message released on the 73rd anniversary of the supreme law of the land coming into force, Abe said there is “no wavering in my resolve to amend the Constitution.”

The message was delivered to a gathering of conservative and pro-amendment groups that was held in an online format this year due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Abe said in a video message three years ago to a rally organized by the same groups, which are associated with the Japan Conference, that his aim was to amend the Constitution by rewriting the war-renouncing Article 9 by 2020.

Abe has argued that the article should be revised by adding an explicit reference to the Self-Defense Forces to end the debate over their constitutionality.

The article, if read literally, prohibits Japan from possessing military forces and other war-making “potential.”

Despite Abe’s long-held political goal, opinion polls have shown that a majority of Japanese find no need to accelerate discussions on whether to revise the Constitution.

The coronavirus pandemic will likely make it even more difficult for Abe to get the reforms implemented before his current term as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party ends in September 2021.

“The momentum for constitutional reform has decreased due to the coronavirus,” an LDP executive said, adding that it will be difficult to achieve such reform while Abe is in power.

In the video message, Abe also referred to the need of introducing an emergency clause in the Constitution to give more power to the Cabinet in times major disasters, such as the COVID-19.

As the government grapples with the spread of the coronavirus, Abe and some other conservative lawmakers have called for active debate on such a clause, which critics have warned could restrict people’s rights.

“We can proceed (with talks on constitutional reform) in a calm environment after the coronavirus situation settles down,” Democratic Party for the People leader Yuichiro Tamaki told a news conference on Friday.

Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, is also cautious about hasty talks on revising the Constitution. “It’s important to hold discussions on constitutional issues in a calm manner,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said on Thursday.

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