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Abe tells Diet 2020 deadline for revised Constitution meant to spur debate

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe responds to a question from opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Akira Nagatsuma at a House of Representatives budget committee meeting on May 8, 2017. (Mainichi)

Following his May 3 video message saying that he aims to have a new Constitution go into effect in 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has explained that his objective was to propel debate about constitutional revision in the Diet as the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Discussion on constitutional revision has had a tendency to stall due to opposing views among various political parties.

During intensive deliberations at a May 8 meeting of the House of Representatives budget committee, Abe explained, "I wanted to spur deliberations (on the Constitution) among political parties in the Diet." He also said, "I want to see active debate in the commissions on the Constitution of both chambers of the Diet."

In his video message, which was shown to participants of a gathering calling for the revision of the Constitution on May 3, Constitution Day -- which marked the 70th anniversary of the current Constitution's effectuation -- Abe stated that he wanted 2020 to be the year a new Constitution went into force. He specifically advocated for the revision of war-renouncing Article 9 by keeping the first and second paragraphs while adding a third provision explicitly referencing the Self-Defense Forces.

"The LDP has the responsibility of leading debate in the commissions on the Constitution of both the upper and lower houses," Abe stated at a meeting of the LDP Board following the lower house budget committee meeting on May 8. In issuing instructions to accelerate deliberations, he said, "The Board and party members must unite to take a historic step toward constitutional revision."

During the budget committee meeting, Abe explained that the intent of the May 3 video message was to put a deadline on constitutional revision, instead of allowing deliberations to continue forever, as the president of the ruling LDP.

He also expressed great enthusiasm for constitutional revision by saying, "We should make 2020, when the Olympics and Paralympics will be held (in Tokyo), into a year in which we achieve Japan's rebirth." As for details on his thoughts on constitutional revision, however, Abe said, "Since I am taking part in the budget committee meeting as the prime minister, I will refrain from expressing my ideas on the topic as the LDP president."

Additionally, when asked about the LDP's 2012 draft for a revised Constitution, which overhauls the war-renouncing Article 9 and has an explicit provision on the retention of a "national defense army," Abe said that he didn't think it would gain Diet approval or pass a national referendum in its current form, but did not touch upon whether he would retract the 2012 draft.

As for the ouster of former Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura for his gaffes regarding victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear disaster, Abe said, "The responsibility of his appointment lies with me, and I understand the weight of that responsibility. I hope to regain the trust of the Japanese public by delivering results as I stand by the needs of the region and people hit hardest by the disaster."

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