Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said during a debate program Sunday that his ruling Liberal Democratic Party is open to modifying its plans to revise the war-renouncing Constitution — one of the conservative party’s long-held goals.
“If there are suggestions for changing the LDP’s draft (on constitutional revision), we will naturally take them into consideration because politicians need to face reality,” Abe said on an NHK policy debate program involving major party leaders.
In a draft unveiled in April last year, the LDP proposed renaming the Self-Defense Forces to the more military-sounding National Defense Force (kokubo-gun), allowing the emperor to be named head of state instead of symbol of the state, and relaxing the rules for initiating constitutional amendments.
The Constitution states that the emperor is the symbol of the state and the unity of the people. It also bans him from wielding any sovereign powers and limits his role a strictly ceremonial one. In the preceding Meiji Constitution, which lasted until 1947, the emperor was head of state, granting him a wide range of political authority.
The party has incorporated its proposals for revising the supreme code into its campaign pledges for the July 21 House of Councilors election but has been trying to downplay the issue by repeatedly touting “Abenomics,” Abe’s slick economic recovery program.
Abe, whose other goals include revising history textbooks, said on the TV program that “profound discussions should take place widely to gain people’s understanding” on amending the Constitution. The LDP plans to enact legislation to stipulate that people aged 18 or older can take part in referendums on the Constitution.
On the same program, Natsuo Yamaguchi, chief of the LDP’s smaller coalition partner, New Komeito, said it “does not plan to change the current Constitution simply because some people say it is bad.”
Yamaguchi said that his party, which enjoys backing from the nation’s large population of lay Buddhists, will push to add new concepts to the supreme law, such as articles for protecting the environment.
Banri Kaieda, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said he is “staunchly opposed” to the LDP’s constitutional revision plan and said it “could lead to military conscription.” At present, Japan does not have a draft system, much less a formal military that can wage war overseas.
Kazuo Shii, chief of the opposition Japanese Communist Party, said the LDP’s draft is “very dangerous” because it would enable Japanese troops to “go to battlefields and fight there.”
Article 9 of the Constitution bans the use of force as a means to settle international disputes. Changing Article 9 has been one of the LDP’s main goals for decades.
Meanwhile, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-head of opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), said his group can work with the LDP in trying to change the Constitution, adding that revision of the supreme law is “essential to reform the governing system” of the nation.
Tadashi Hirono, deputy leader of Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party), and Kuniko Tanioka, head of Midori no Kaze (Green Wind), said they are opposed to watering down Article 96, which sets the majority voting requirements needed to initiate an amendment, because it will lower the legislative hurdle for amending other parts of the supreme law, namely by changing the two-thirds majority voting requirement in both houses of the Diet to a simple majority instead.