TOKYO -- Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday he would consider incorporating a clause in the amendment to the Constitution proposed by his Liberal Democratic Party calling for civilian control of the Self-Defense Forces.
In a public debate pitting leaders of eight political parties against each other ahead of snap lower-house elections on Oct. 22, Abe said that explicitly mentioning the SDF in the Constitution as proposed by the LDP "would not change the relationship between the Defense Ministry and self-defense officials."
"If we clearly state civilian control [in the Constitution], it will clarify" what the amendment would say, Abe said.
The prime minister's comment is seen as trying to allay growing concern that officials in the SDF may assume more power than civilians under the LDP's plan to revise Article 9 of the Constitution.
During the debate, which was streamed online, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, head of the newly launched Kibo no To, or Party of Hope, pointed out that talks regarding Constitutional reform have too narrowly focused on the amendment to Article 9, adding: "That said, I think it's a part we shouldn't avoid as we review the Constitution as a whole."
Her comments indicated she at least regards the article as worthy of debate.
When demanded by Koike why he chose to dissolve the lower house and have a snap election in the face of North Korea's nuclear missile threat, the prime minister replied that he wants to "reaffirm the public's trust in our policy of pressuring [North Korea]," adding that "we can work on the resolution of the issue by prioritizing Japan's interests, taking advantage of opportunities, including President Trump's visit in November."
He also said the election is "something that lies at the foundation of democracy, and it shouldn't be affected by North Korea's threat."
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP's junior partner Komeito, took a jab at Koike, who now leads an emerging counterforce against the ruling coalition. "The Party of Hope plans to endorse over 100 individuals from the Democratic Party," he said. "The party decided to endorse them on condition that those individuals accept the security legislation. But those are people who in the past demanded abolishing the legislation, changing [their position] overnight."