The ruling Liberal Democratic Party called on Thursday for all parties to engage in parliamentary debate on the revision of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, even as many opposition parties affirmed their unity to stand up against such an amendment.
“We must hold substantial discussions” on Article 9, with each member clarifying the positions on the issue, LDP lawmaker Gen Nakatani said at a meeting of the lower house’s Constitution Commission. The former defense minister is in an influential position in the commission’s steering.
The LDP is gearing up toward the first-ever amendment of Japan’s postwar supreme law after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who doubles as head of the LDP, brought up the Article 9 revision issue last month and urged the LDP to present a plan by the end of the year.
A senior LDP member said Nakatani requested debate on Article 9 so the commission can wrap up discussions that have taken place during the ongoing Diet session, which is set to end later in the month.
“This is to take the discussions (on constitutional revisions) to the next stage,” the member said.
Ruling and opposition party members have already reacted to Abe’s recent proposal to explicitly mention the existence of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9. But a commission meeting to specifically discuss the revision of the article has not been convened yet.
Meanwhile, leaders of the main opposition Democratic Party and three other parties met the same day and agreed they will not allow an Article 9 change for the worse under the Abe government.
Democratic Party leader Renho said at a press conference that the public’s desire is to “defend Article 9” and that her party will also focus on other topics such as the decentralization of power when discussing constitutional revision issues.
Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii hailed the four-party agreement against the Article 9 revision. “It has a great meaning,” he said.
Besides the discussions by the Constitution commissions of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, the LDP plans to make its own amendment proposals by the end of the year.
The proposals are to be presented to the constitutional commissions for further discussions.
In a video message shown at a May 3 gathering of people supportive of constitutional reform, Abe insisted that the existence of the SDF should be added in the text of Article 9 to leave no room for scholars to call the organization “unconstitutional” due to the lack of an explicit reference in the supreme law.
But some legal experts have questioned the consistency of retaining an existing paragraph that abjures the right to maintain military forces while adding another paragraph mentioning the SDF.
Article 9 is the most famous and contentious clause of the Constitution, which conservatives often decry as a product of the U.S.-led occupation after Japan’s defeat in World War II.