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LDP body pushing for Article 9 revision draft within month

Hiroyuki Hosoda addresses a general meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on Feb. 7, 2018. (Mainichi)

A ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) body will aim to draft a revision proposal for the Constitution's pacifist Article 9 as early as this month in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's suggestion to define the existence of Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in the supreme law.

Article 9 currently has two paragraphs, the first renouncing "war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes," and the second declaring Japan will never maintain "war potential" such as land, sea and air forces.

Overall, the LDP's Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution, chaired by House of Representatives lawmaker Hiroyuki Hosoda, is moving in the direction of adding a third paragraph specifying the existence of the SDF. However, former party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and some other members are backing the elimination of the second paragraph altogether, as specified in the LDP's 2012 draft constitutional revision.

The headquarters aims to have a final revision proposal ready before the LDP convention on March 25.

"We will verify past debate on the issue, and put together a proposal that will win public support," Hosoda told reporters after a Feb. 7 meeting of headquarters' executives, where the vast majority of those in attendance backed the third-paragraph option, though Ishiba was also present.

At the general meeting that followed, acting headquarters head Gen Nakatani acknowledged Ishiba's position by reviewing the 2012 draft Constitution, including eliminating Article 9's second paragraph and specifying that Japan would have a "national defense military with the prime minister as its commander-in-chief." However, there were no signs of real compromise between Ishiba and the third-paragraph camp. Hosoda then called on LDP lawmakers to submit their Article 9 revision proposals to the headquarters within the next 10 days.

Internal party opinion on revising Article 9 has coalesced around three main proposals: adding a third paragraph specifying the SDF's existence; adding a third paragraph specifying Japan's right to defend itself; or eliminating the second paragraph and replacing it with a clarification of the SDF's purpose and capabilities. Hosoda and other headquarters executives believe they can rally support around the simple addition of the SDF paragraph if all revision proposals are presented and debated.

After the general meeting, Ishiba told reporters, "I was a member of the 2012 (Article 9 revision) draft committee, so I will keep to that proposal." He also suggested he would keep Hosoda and other panel members in check as they move to decide on a revision draft quickly, saying, "If we don't debate the issue, then we will not come to a conclusion. This is not something that can be decided on by simple majority rule."

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