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Abe unveils plan to revise Constitution

By Xinhua - Reuters | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-04 07:46

Voters in Japan are deeply divided over campaign to revise Article 9

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that he hopes to see a revised Constitution go into effect in 2020 under a plan that will see the first change to the postwar charter.

Speaking in a video message at a gathering to celebrate the he 70th anniversary of the Pacifist Constitution being enacted, Abe said he wanted the language in the revised Constitution to mention Japan's Self-Defense Forces.

The current charter makes no mention of the existence of the SDF in its war-renouncing pledges, which has led to a great deal of controversy regarding the constitutionality of Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party camp's push to expand the scope of the nation's forces.

"By making explicit the status of the SDF in the Constitution during our generation's lifetime, we should leave no room for contending that the SDF may be unconstitutional," the prime minister said.

In an upper house election held last July, Abe's ruling coalition won a sweeping majority and along with conservative and pro-revision forces, the ruling camp command a two-thirds majority in both chambers necessary to call a national referendum on changing the constitution.

Article 9 of Japan's Pacifist Constitution states that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes".

It goes on to state: "Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

Voters in Japan are deeply divided over Abe's campaign to revise the Constitution, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

The Nikkei Inc/TV Tokyo survey showed about 46 percent of respondents favored keeping the Constitution as it is, four percentage points lower than a similar poll last year.

The number favoring a change stood at 45 percent, up five percentage points from a year ago.

Protection mission

Meanwhile, Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force Sazanami destroyer has joined the Izumo helicopter carrier in escorting a United States Navy vessel, sources said on Wednesday.

The Sazanami joined the mission having departed from a MSDF base in Kure on Tuesday, Kyodo News quoted government and other sources as saying.

Japan's Ministry of Defense previously said the inaugural mission, since the contentious new legislation took effect last year, is aimed at a showing of Japanese force alongside that of the US.

The Izumo, the largest warship Japan has entered into service since World War II, and widely regarded as de facto aircraft carrier, left its base in Yokosuka on Monday for the mission.

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