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Japan Diet panel resumes debate on amending Constitution

TOKYO — Japanese political parties discussed revising the Constitution at an upper house panel on Wednesday for the first time since November last year, a step toward Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s long-cherished goal of achieving the first-ever amendment to the pacifist supreme law.


The opposition Democratic Party expressed opposition to Abe’s proposal to amend war-renouncing Article 9 to explicitly mention the status of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. The opposition Japanese Communist Party also objected to the proposed amendment, saying that it would “open the way for unlimited use of force.”


Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, meanwhile, proposed revising Article 47 to improve the system to hold the upper house election.


The LDP’s Yoshihiko Isozaki told the Commission on the Constitution that discussing the Constitution is “an important mission given to the Diet.”


The commission was set up at both Diet chambers in 2007, but active debates have been repeatedly suspended due to standoffs between ruling and opposition parties.


The upper house panel was not convened during the ordinary Diet session through June, during which the ruling bloc pushed through contentious legislation to criminalize the planning of serious crimes. The House of Representatives panel was held late last month.


Substantial discussions at the Diet panels on the Constitution restarted after the LDP scored a big win in the lower house election in October.


Following the general election, the LDP, its junior coalition partner the Komeito party and other pro-constitutional reform forces maintain two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the Diet, which are required to commence an amendment. Then, proposals need to be approved by a majority of voters in a national referendum.


Abe aims to revise the Constitution, particularly Article 9, and the ruling party is expected to craft its amendment proposals and present them during the ordinary Diet session to be convened in January.


During the election campaign, the LDP pledged to promote discussion on constitutional changes, centering on stipulating the status of the SDF to end arguments by some constitutional scholars that its existence is unconstitutional.

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