Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party presents options for revision of pacifist clause of Constitution
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party unveiled Wednesday seven options for revising the pacifist clause of the Constitution, with three of the draft plans referring explicitly to Japan's Self-Defense Forces as proposed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
One of the draft plans presented to the party's constitutional reform task force, defining the SDF as "an armed organization with minimum required strength," was viewed as having the potential to secure party consensus.
Abe, who heads the LDP, has underlined the need to mention the existence of the SDF in the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, the cornerstone of Japan's pacifist identity since World War II but seen by conservatives as an imposition of the U.S.-led postwar occupation.
The draft plan calls for creating a new section under Article 9 and stipulating that the SDF as tasked with "defending our country's peace and independence and ensuring the safety of the country and the people," as well as stating that the prime minister is "supreme commander."
Abe has said he is not seeking to change SDF operations in practice but to clarify the status of the organization, which has existed for decades even though Article 9, when read literally, prohibits Japan from possessing military forces and other "war potential."
Article 9 renounces war in the first paragraph and abjures the right to maintain military forces and other "war potential" in the second paragraph.
The government asserts the SDF are different from ordinary militaries, with use of force strictly limited to self-defense and the possession of armaments not allowed to reach a level constituting a "war potential."
Abe has argued that adding an explicit reference to the SDF in Article 9 would bring an end to arguments made by some constitutional scholars that the organization is unconstitutional.
But some LDP members have called for the removal of the second paragraph of Article 9, which has largely complicated the status of the SDF. Their proposals to drop the second paragraph were among the seven options and the task force is also weighing them.
Many LDP members support the idea of leaving the existing paragraphs intact, believing that a relatively moderate change will boost the chances of realizing the first-ever revision of the postwar Constitution, which must ultimately be approved by a majority in a public referendum.
Hiroyuki Hosoda, the head of the task force, hopes to wrap up discussions on Thursday when a plenary meeting will be held on the issue. He aims to secure consensus within the body to pick a draft plan in line with Abe's views, according to participants.
But former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, who disagrees with Abe's suggestion, said after the meeting on Wednesday, "Party members are divided. We are not in a situation to give (Mr. Hosoda) a free hand in reaching a conclusion on the issue."