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Tug-of-war in LDP over Article 9 Paragraph 2 of Constitution

A tug-of-war continues in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the proposed constitutional revision on the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). The party’s Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution is working to draft a provision in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to retain Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9, while former Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba and others staunchly stand for deleting Paragraph 2. An executive of the headquarters described the discussions on Feb. 7 as “showing no signs of finding a middle ground.”

 

In the case of retaining Paragraph 2 as proposed by Abe, a Paragraph 3 on the SDF will have to be added to the Constitution. Since the cooperation of Komeito, which supports adding constitutional provisions, is necessary for constitutional revision, Abe has stated repeatedly that “there will be no change in the SDF’s duties and powers.”

 

However, even if the SDF becomes constitutional with an explicit provision, the issue of the ban on “war potential” stipulated in Paragraph 2 would remain unresolved.

 

A question has also been raised about the “reversal” of the positions of the SDF and the Defense Ministry, since the former will be a constitutional entity while the latter, an entity created by law.

 

Another issue is that if the constitutional revision proposal on the SDF is rejected in a referendum, this would rather render the SDF’s position unstable.

 

The LDP’s constitutional amendment proposals of 2012 called for deleting Paragraph 2, recognizing the invocation of the right to self-defense, and the maintenance of a “national defense army.”

 

Ishiba, who presided over the debate on these proposals at that time, told reporters after the plenary meeting of the constitutional revision headquarters on Feb. 7: “It would be too hasty to simply add a Paragraph 3 on the SDF if questions regarding the right of belligerency and the SDF remain.” He pointed out that the proposal to retain Paragraph 2 is inadequate.

 

Nevertheless, deleting Paragraph 2 would mean making the SDF an armed force. Although Ishiba is saying: “If the word ‘army’ has a negative image, I am not particular about what it should be called,” it would not be easy to win public support on this.

 

Abe stated at the Lower House Budget Committee on Jan. 30: “Changing Paragraph 2 would allow the full exercise of the right to collective self-defense,” thus cautioning against deleting Paragraph 2. He would really like to avoid a repeat of the situation of sharply divided public opinions at the time the security laws were being deliberated.

 

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura and Hiroyuki Hosoda, chair of the constitutional revision headquarters, reckon that it would be difficult to even submit a motion to the Diet on deleting Paragraph 2, not to say winning approval in a referendum.

 

LDP House of Councillors member Shigeharu Aoyama and others have announced their proposal to retain Paragraph 2 and add a Paragraph 3 not on the SDF, but on the right of self-defense. While Aoyama explained that this was meant to be a “compromise between the Prime Minister’s and Ishiba’s proposals,” this proposal would leave room for the scope of the right of self-defense to be expanded beyond the limited exercise of the collective defense right authorized by the security laws. (Slightly abridged)

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