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Abe hopes to win cross-party support on proposed constitutional change

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seen at Ise Jingu shrine in Ise, Mie Prefecture, in this Jan. 4, 2018 file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that he hopes to win support from as many parties as possible before submitting his constitutional amendment to a Diet session.

    Speaking on Japan's public broadcaster NHK, he said that in-depth discussions on the first-ever revision to the country's pacifist Constitution should not be sacrificed in an effort to meet a deadline for implementation.

    "I hope (the revision) will be formed in a way that gains support from many parties," Abe said.

    A constitutional amendment is one of Abe's key stated issues for 2018 and has been a long-cherished goal.

    Abe proposed to change the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 in an attempt to neuter arguments by some constitutional scholars that armed forces, even those tasked with self-defense, violate the country's war-renouncing charter. He has said he wants the amendment put into force by 2020.

    Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party's junior coalition ally Komeito, said in the same NHK program that it is important for the public to fully understand the revision and that discussion during the Diet session is comprehensive.

    Yukio Edano, the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan -- the largest opposition force in the lower house -- said he cannot accept a change to Article 9 when interviewed on the program.

    On North Korea, Abe said he thinks it is positive that Pyongyang expressed its intention to take part in next month's Winter Olympic Games in neighboring South Korea but reiterated that there is no change in Japan's policy to increase pressure on the country to give up its nuclear and missile ambitions.

    As for a dispute over Korean women forced to work in Japan's wartime military brothels, the prime minister again urged Seoul to maintain and implement the December 2015 agreement aimed at resolving the issue.

    Last month South Korean President Moon Jae In said the two-year-old deal, struck under the government of his impeached predecessor Park Geun Hye, does not resolve the issue because negotiations that led to the agreement were flawed.

    Abe said he will think about the LDP's presidential election scheduled for September after the ordinary Diet session ends on June 20.

    His re-election in the party leadership race could see him head the LDP until 2021 and make him the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history.


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