TOKYO -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's conservative ruling party, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is rushing to lay the groundwork for its founding mission of revising Japan's war-renouncing constitution.
At its annual convention here Sunday, the Liberal Democratic Party adopted a 2015 strategy promising a nationwide campaign to build momentum toward that end. The aim is to submit the first of several motions to revise the charter after the upper house election in the summer of 2016.
The LDP "must not forget our pride as a conservative party began with a mission of revising the constitution," the document said.
The wording was markedly stronger than that of the 2014 document, which had simply mentioned plans to hold nationwide gatherings to advance the effort.
Abe's plan is to start out with constitutional issues likely to gain easy support across party lines, leaving such major topics as the war-renouncing Article 9 for later. Senior members of the lower house's constitution commission will meet this week to narrow down the topics.
"Constitutional revision is only possible with the public's understanding," LDP policy chief Tomomi Inada told reporters after the convention. "We will spur a public discourse."
Abe, however, avoided directly mentioning constitutional changes at the convention and instead focused on the more immediate challenge of crafting legislation allowing expanded use of force overseas.
"We have a responsibility to protect Japan's territory, airspace and waters," Abe said.
"We will create a legal framework that would allow for a seamless response covering everything from gray-zone situations to the use of collective self-defense," he added. "We will accomplish what needs to be accomplished without hesitation."
He also skirted the landmark war anniversary statement due out this summer but briefly touched on history. "We lost precious lives during the world war," Abe said. "We must be mindful that our current peaceful life is built on their sacrifices."
Stressing economic growth, the prime minister said the party "will tackle the most sweeping reforms since the end of World War II to advance its growth strategy."
An upper house member explained that the prime minister must have decided to avoid controversial issues before April's local elections.
"He probably tried to temper his conservative rhetoric," the lawmaker said.