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LDP resumes debate on Constitution revisions, eyes Article 9 draft

Chairman of the LDP Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution Okiharu Yasuoka addresses the committee on Sept. 12, 2017, at the party headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi)

The constitutional revision committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has resumed debate on revisions to the supreme law, including war-renouncing Article 9, planning to present a draft for the article as early as next month.

The LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution held a meeting for all of the party's lawmakers at the LDP headquarters on Sept. 12, to discuss revisions that would clarify the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

Okiharu Yasuoka, leader of the headquarters, suggested presenting a draft revision at the next meeting relating to Article 9 -- expected in late October -- in line with a proposal by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that would uphold the first and second paragraphs of Article 9. The first paragraph renounces war, while the second states that Japan will never maintain the potential for war.

It was the first time for the headquarters to convene a meeting since the reshuffle of Cabinet members and LDP officials in August. Through his proposal, Abe seeks to win support from his party's coalition partner Komeito. Legislators who attended the meeting were supportive of the move. Comments included that it was significant from the perspective of "sweeping away the unconstitutionality of the SDF," and that it was a "realistic move with a view to holding a referendum" on the issue.

Former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba supports the party's 2012 draft for the revised Constitution, which deleted the second paragraph of Article 9 and proposed the establishment of a "national defense army." He stressed that an opportunity should be made within the party to discuss this draft, but no conclusion was reached on the issue on Sept. 12.

Saying that debate could not proceed without an image of the concrete text of revisions, Yasuoka proposed presenting a draft with reference to the SDF as a springboard for discussion.

During a general meeting on Sept. 20, the constitutional revision headquarters will discuss extending the terms of Diet members during major disasters and other emergency situations. Issues such as making education free and revisions to the electoral system for the House of Councillors will be discussed later. The draft that would clarify the existence of the SDF would likely be presented after a House of Representatives by-election slated for Oct. 22.

Following his August Cabinet reshuffle, Abe stressed that he is not prioritizing the deadline for revising the Constitution. The headquarters, however, aims to proceed with debate within the LDP with an eye to see a revised Constitution go into force in 2020 as proposed by Abe earlier this year.

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