• Jiji

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Three of the four candidates running for president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party expressed their readiness on Sunday to work to achieve the party's four proposals for amending Japan's Constitution in a future-oriented way.

In an online debate focusing on constitutional amendments and education policy, regulatory reform minister Taro Kono, former LDP Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida and LDP deputy secretary-general Seiko Noda expressed their commitment to the party proposals, including one that calls for the existence of the Self-Defense Forces to be spelled out clearly in the supreme charter's pacifist Article 9.

Former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi sought the clarification of limits on private rights in the Constitution, in addition to the four proposed items.

Kono, 58, proposed that the LDP should discuss constitutional amendments with opposition parties in parliament and put agreements to national referendums in sequence. "I want to work on the issue in a future-oriented way," he said.

Kishida, 64, said it is important to clarify the SDF in the Constitution in order to put an end to the arguments that brand the SDF as unconstitutional. "I want to push forward the proposal toward the future" and reform the Constitution into the people's charter, he said.

Noda, 61, said, "I want to take on the challenge of creating a new constitution in a future-oriented way."

Takaichi, 60, discussed the guarantee of the people's freedom and rights by referring to the Constitution's Article 12, which stipulates that the people shall always be responsible for using them for public welfare.

She proposed revising "public welfare" to "public interest and public order" in order to make it clear that private rights can be restricted to a certain degree in times of emergency.

Sunday's debate was the fourth and last in a series hosted by the LDP before the party leadership election set for Wednesday. Whoever wins the election is all but certain to become prime minister due to the LDP's majority in the House of Representatives.

In the latest debate, the four candidates also discussed improving scholarship opportunities.

Kono stressed the need to strengthen support for graduate school students' tuition fees and living expenses. Japan needs to start with such aid if it wants to put a great deal of effort in research and development, he said.

Kishida proposed a system that would allow people to repay scholarship money after graduating from universities in line with their incomes.

Takaichi proposed raising the maximum eligibility age for child allowances to 18. Noda expressed her willingness to develop a mechanism to help students find the appropriate scholarship programs that fit their parents' incomes.

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