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Abe admits overreach on Constitution, but remains determined to make changes

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi)

In a Dec. 19 speech in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revealed he believes he bit off more than he could chew with his push to change the Constitution, but at the same time still has his eyes on getting a revised supreme law into force by 2020.

"I tried to make some waves to give stalled discussions (on constitutional revisions) a push. But those waves turned out to be too big, so I had a tough time after that," Abe said, referring to his proposal in May this year that Japan's Self-Defense Forces be included in the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9. The sudden proposal sparked a sharp rebuke from opposition parties, as well as from his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), whose 2012 draft for constitutional amendment called for inserting a "national defense force" provision into the supreme law.

All told, the prime minister appeared to regret that he had not laid sufficient groundwork for his desired revisions.

On the other hand, while Abe maintained that he had "no set schedule" in mind for passing constitutional revisions, he also called the hosting of the 2020 Tokyo Games "a time to build momentum toward pulling back the curtain on a new era. And so we should have deep discussions on the Constitution, and energetically debate what kind of country Japan should be."

On whether he will stand for a third term as LDP president in the party leadership election in autumn 2018, Abe said, "My mind is busy with the affairs of next year's ordinary Diet session, among other issues. I will think about that (the party leadership race) once that's done."

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