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LDP to skip talks with Komeito, hand Constitution change plan to Diet

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party has decided to present its draft proposals to revise Japan's pacifist Constitution to the upcoming extraordinary Diet session without prior consultations with its junior coalition partner Komeito party, LDP executives said Friday.

In a bid to pursue Abe's long-cherished goal, the LDP plans to offer its proposals to the commissions on the Constitution at both Diet chambers during the session expected to be convened later this month, as Komeito has remained cautious about changing the war-renouncing Article 9, the senior officials said.

Abe, who was re-elected as LDP president last month, has urged his party to submit its constitutional amendment proposals to the upcoming Diet session and expressed his readiness to hold prior consultations with Komeito.

But Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi repeatedly indicated the party's reluctance to enter the prior negotiations, telling reporters on Tuesday the issue should be debated at the House of Representatives' Commission on the Constitution.

Hakubun Shimomura, who has been appointed as new head of an LDP panel promoting constitutional revision, and former LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura, who is set to become the party panel's supreme advisor, confirmed the policy during their meeting on Thursday, according to the executives.

The ruling party aims to spur wider debate among the ruling and opposition parties over the issue, but it is unclear whether its attempt will succeed as many opposition forces, including the leading Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, are opposed to Abe's ambition.

Abe has sought to clarify the legally ambiguous status of the Self-Defense Forces in the war-renouncing Article 9, which bans maintenance of war potential, to put an end to debate over the constitutionality of the Japanese troops.

But the process is not easy as constitutional amendments require approval by two-thirds of both houses of the Diet and a majority in a national referendum.

The supreme law took effect in 1947 during the U.S.-led postwar occupation and has never been revised.

In March, the LDP compiled its draft clauses for revising Constitution in four potential areas including Article 9, a sensitive issue in Japan, after Abe made public his proposals to change the supreme law in May last year.

The ruling party now seeks to upgrade its constitutional amendment proposals through talks involving both ruling and opposition forces at the parliament panels.

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