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LDP constitutional revision HQ mulling provision on PM as SDF supreme commander

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Headquarters for the Promotion of Revision to the Constitution is coordinating to stipulate in the constitution that the prime minister is the supreme commander of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) if a provision on the SDF is added. This is for the purpose of establishing civilian control, and the constitutional provision will also state that the SDF is under the control of the Diet.


Regarding the constitutional provision on the SDF, the favored proposal at present is to have a new Article 9 Section 2 in order to underscore “adherence to Article 9.” The plan is to define the SDF in Paragraph 1 of the new Section 2, while Paragraph 2 will stipulate civilian control.


To define the relation between the prime minister and the SDF, the proposal is to state that the prime minister is the “supreme commander” and that he has the “power to command” the SDF. In this provision, the modifier “head of the cabinet” will be added to the prime minister to clarify that the SDF as an organization under the jurisdiction of the cabinet.


In terms of the SDF’s relation with the Diet, proposals to include a clause on the SDF’s “obeying the Diet’s orders,” a provision that the SDF’s use of force “shall require the Diet’s approval,” and so forth are being considered.


Furthermore, in order to make clear that the SDF does not constitute “land, sea, air, and other war potential” banned under the current Article 9 Paragraph 2, a clause stating that the SDF “shall be a minimum required armed force” will be included, reflecting the government’s constitutional interpretation that “only the minimum required defense capability is allowed under the constitution.”


There is criticism that a constitutional provision on the SDF will give it a status higher than the Ministry of Defense, which was created by law, giving rise to issues of civilian control. The LDP constitutional revision headquarters wants to address such concerns by clarifying the SDF’s relation with the cabinet and the Diet.


Last May, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe proposed retaining both Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 – which stipulates renunciation of war and non-maintenance of war potential, respectively – and adding a provision on the SDF. In October, he explained that “explicit provisions on civilian control will also be included.”


The LDP constitutional revision headquarters is studying the wording of constitutional provisions in line with Abe’s proposals. It solicited draft provisions on the SDF from all the party’s Diet members recently and received over 100 suggestions. It will also look into these suggestions in the process of drafting provisions compatible with Abe’s proposal, aiming at presenting draft constitutional revision proposals to the party convention on March 25.

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