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Editorial: Address constitutional revision with unwavering resolve

Abe reshuffled his cabinet for the fourth time. A new political arrangement with new leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is ready to start.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kept key figures in their posts including Finance Minister Taro Aso, also Deputy Prime Minister; Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; and LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai. The prime minister moved Toshimitsu Motegi, who had advanced Japan-U.S. trade negotiations, from minister in charge of economic revitalization to foreign minister. The premier also moved Taro Kono from foreign minister to defense minister. It can be said that Abe made known both at home and abroad his intention to maintain a stable administration and to continue his policies.


Prime Minister Abe, whose total term of office will mark a new record in November, seems intent to groom potential candidates to succeed him as prime minister. This is evidenced by his appointment of Motegi and Kono as important cabinet ministers, as well as the appointment of Katsunobu Kato and Shinjiro Koizumi as labor minister and environment minister, respectively.


Cabinet members should share a sense of crisis


Fumio Kishida also remains in the post of LDP Policy Research Council chairperson. This is an opportunity for those who aspire to be the next prime minister and they will face a crucial juncture. How will new cabinet ministers and LDP leaders fulfill their important responsibilities? Needless to say, they must put priority on the best interests of the nation and avoid grandstanding.


Prime Minister Abe is also the LDP president and two years remain in his term. That is not a lot of time to resolve various issues. With that in mind, we want him to boldly implement policies that will serve the national interest.


There are many challenges to address. The prime minister regards the declining birth rate and aging population as a national crisis. Reform of the social security system to respond to the crisis is an urgent matter. The consumption tax rate will be raised to 10% in October.


One of the most important issues is constitutional amendment. Prime Minister Abe stressed at a press conference,  “I want to vigorously move forward constitutional amendment with the whole party united.” The security environment continues to deteriorate. We cannot afford to put off constitutional revision any further. Whether Japan can enjoy peace and prosperity in the future is called into question.


As in the case of the last Diet session, if lawmakers refuse to even discuss constitutional amendment, there is no reason for the cabinet and the LDP to exist. Such a sense of crisis must be shared in the cabinet and the LDP.


Prime Minister Abe said at a press conference after the last Upper House election, “The people’s judgement was that lawmakers should at least discuss constitutional amendment.” If so, the prime minister should use the bully pulpit and thoroughly explain the importance of constitutional revision. No progress has been made with a bill to revise the constitutional referendum law that lays out procedures for revising the constitution. If lawmakers refuse to even discuss the matter, both ruling and opposition parties are extremely irresponsible and guilty of dereliction of their duty.


The core of constitutional amendment is revising paragraph 2 of Article 2, which stipulates, “Land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” As the first step toward amendment, specifying the Self-Defense Forces in the constitution would be of great significance.


Japan has repeated the mantra of a peace constitution and stopped thinking over the 74 years since the war. So it has failed to amend the constitution. Foreign countries don’t take into account the circumstances of Japan; instead they exploit them. 


The new cabinet, aware that this is the last chance, must address constitutional revision with unwavering resolve.


Make a fresh start for diplomacy toward Russia and China


The international environment surrounding Japan is becoming harsher.


China aims to capture the Senkaku Islands and continues building military bases on artificial islands by ignoring international law. In addition to land, sea and air, the PRC aims to be dominant in new domains such as space, cyber and electromagnetic waves. Prime Minister Abe said, “The relationship with China is completely back to normal,” but perhaps no one believes China is a trustworthy neighbor. How should Japan deal with China? The true worth of summit diplomacy and also of Foreign Minister Motegi’s diplomacy will be put to the test.


The prime minister also needs to make a fresh start in relations with Russia over the issue of the Northern Territories. He has completely misread Moscow’s intention. It is now obvious that President Vladimir Putin has no intention to return the islands. Former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko has led talks with Russia on economic cooperation in Siberia. He is now outside the cabinet, so this is a good opportunity to review the bilateral relationship. Japan should return to the principle of the return of the four islands.


North Korea has not given up its nuclear program and continues firing missiles. The country poses a direct threat to Japan. Even if U.S. President Donald Trump does not denounces the DPRK, Japan needs to prepare for a contingency. The families of victims abducted by North Korea have reached the limits of patience. Prime Minister Abe should take every opportunity to boldly tackle the issue. The Strait of Hormuz is Japan’s lifeline as 80% of its oil passes through that body of water. Tokyo should seriously consider participating in the coalition of the willing.


The Ceremony of Accession (Sokui-no-Rei) and Grand Thanksgiving (Daijosai) are slated for this fall. We want the prime minister to prepare for the events with utmost care.


His Majesty the Emperor and His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Akishino have only one male successor —  His Imperial Highness Prince Hisahito. In order to preserve Japan’s national character, preparing measures for stable Imperial succession is also an important responsibility of the new cabinet.

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