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As Mr. Shinzo Abe took the helm of the Liberal Democratic Party last month, Komeito, the junior partner with the LDP in the ruling coalition, saw a change in party leadership. Mr. Akihiro Ota and Mr. Kazuo Kitagawa replaced Mr. Takenori Kanzaki and Tetsuzo Fuyushiba, respectively, as president and secretary general.

Komeito, backed by Soka Gakkai, the nation’s largest lay Buddhist organization, and known as an advocate of peace and improvement of people’s welfare, faces the difficult task of preserving and promoting its own identity while functioning as part of the governing bloc.

Komeito went into partnership with the LDP in October 1999 under the Obuchi administration. As the partnership enters its eighth year, Komeito faces a dilemma over Mr. Abe’s advocacy of a revision of the war-renouncing Constitution as well as a review of the long-standing policy of not exercising the right to collective defense.

Mr. Ota said recently that Komeito adheres to Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the deployment of armed forces as a means of settling international disputes. The party stands by the official interpretation of the same article: prohibition of the exercise of the right to collective defense.

But Komeito’s new plan of action does not mention opposition to the exercise of the right to collective defense. Nor does the pact for continuing the LDP-Komeito coalition touch on what to do with the Constitution or the issue of collective defense. It also fails to mention the Yasukuni war shrine, although Mr. Ota supports the idea of establishing a nonreligious national memorial for the war dead. Both the LDP and Komeito apparently have set aside issues that might cause conflicts between them.

It may be possible for the two parties to bury their differences for a time. But when Mr. Abe and the LDP assert their own positions on those issues, Komeito will have to decide — whether to stay true to its ideals or to choose political expediency.

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