January 4, 2017 4:20 pm JST

Abe calls for "new nation-building" in Constitution's 70th year

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Ise Grand Shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, on Jan. 4. © Kyodo

ISE, Japan (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday his administration will proceed with "new nation-building" in 2017 as Japan marks the 70th anniversary of its post-World War II Constitution, a document he has long sought to revise.

"Now is the time to look to the future, in anticipation of the next 70 years, and proceed with new nation-building," Abe said at a New Year press conference in Ise in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, after visiting the Ise Grand Shrine in the city earlier in the day.

"We, who are living today, must learn from our predecessors of 70 years ago who built postwar (Japan), face our challenges head-on and fulfill our responsibilities for the future," Abe said.

Revising the war-renouncing Constitution, which was introduced while Japan was still under postwar occupation by the United States and has remained unaltered since, has been a long-standing goal both of Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party he leads.

Gains by the LDP and likeminded lawmakers in last year's upper house election pushed them past a legal hurdle required to formally consider a constitutional amendment.

Hinting at a more self-reliant Japan, Abe said "our future is not something we are given by (other) people."

"We, the Japanese people, will carve it out with our own hands -- now is the time when the grit (to do so) is needed" he said.

Abe also said his administration will "keep putting the highest priority on the economy this year," continuing to work to pull Japan out of deflation that has dominated the past two decades.

Abe said the next ordinary Diet session will convene Jan. 20 and will be aimed at "opening up (Japan's) future."

The premier said he is "not thinking at all of dissolving" the House of Representatives for a snap election, which he has the sole discretion to do at any time.

With a government panel continuing to debate possible responses to Emperor Akihito's apparent wish to abdicate, Abe reiterated that the issue is "an extremely serious matter and must not be turned into political fodder."

Noting that 2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese zodiac, Abe said he will continue to advance "proactive diplomacy, looking across the globe with a bird's-eye view, this year."

Last month, Abe hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for a summit in Japan. Sources have said Abe and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may be planning a meeting in the United States at the end of this month, shortly after Trump's inauguration.

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