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PM Abe, rival Ishiba clash over constitutional revisions

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi)

SHIMONOSEKI, Yamaguchi -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has urged the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to work out proposals on constitutional revisions and submit a draft to the Diet during an extraordinary session planned for this coming autumn, while his rival, former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, has called for more debate on the matter.

"The LDP should speed up its efforts to work out a draft of constitutional amendments so that the party can submit it to the Diet during the next session," the 63-year-old prime minister said in a speech in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, on Aug. 12. Abe was elected from the Yamaguchi No. 4 constituency that includes Shimonoseki as a member of the House of Representatives.

Prime Minister Abe suggested that he will make constitutional revisions a point of contention during the party leadership race in September.

"Constitutional amendment has been the party's policy since its founding. Whoever becomes its president, they must fulfill their responsibility for that," the prime minister said. "It's necessary to clear an extremely high hurdle to achieve revisions."

He then suggested that he will propose in the September LDP presidential election to add a clause stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces to Article 9 of the supreme law, while retaining the clause's war-renouncing paragraph 1, as well as paragraph 2, which bans Japan from possessing any war potential, and seek to win support from party members.

Ishiba, Abe's prospective rival in the party presidential race, has proposed to delete paragraph 2 of Article 9 and clearly define the SDF in the clause as war potential.

Prime Minister Abe said, "Results are everything in politics. The question is how to form broad consensus to achieve constitutional amendments," thereby warning against Ishiba's stance on the issue.

Prime Minister Abe also indicated that the LDP will seek to incorporate into the Constitution free preschool and higher education, which the party pledged in the campaign for the October 2017 House of Representatives election,

Describing human resource development as an important long-term national policy, the prime minister said the issue "should be clearly written into the Constitution."

In the meantime, Ishiba called for further intraparty debate on constitutional revisions before submitting a draft of amendments to the Diet.

"We haven't made any decision on the matter as a party. It's important to have another round of thorough debate," Ishiba told reporters in Tokyo on the evening of Aug. 12.

The LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution drew up a four-point plan on constitutional revisions, including changes to Article 9 just as Abe has proposed, this past March. However, the plan has not been approved by the party's decision-making General Council.

Ishiba expressed opposition to Abe's proposal saying, "I don't think we should revise the supreme law when it won't change anything (including the SDF's authority)," adding that the revision plan "must go through a decision-making process by the party at the very least."

(Japanese original by Kazumasa Kawabe, Political News Department)

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