End of 'peace constitution'? Japan seeks right to make war

Special to World
Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has made clear that he would legitimize the Self-Defense Forces by revising the country's controversial pacifist constitution if his party does well as expected in next week's elections to the lower house.

During a Nov. 2 Fuji TV discussion program, Koizumi reiterated his desire to turn the SDF into Japan's "national military" by revising Article 9 of the constitution which renounces war. "I wonder if it's reasonable not to recognize that the SDF represent war potential. I think it's better to legitimize the SDF as our military forces in everyone's eyes," Koizumi said.

Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party says it will come up with a draft revision by 2005, which will mark the party's 50th founding anniversary.

As Japan is sending non-combat troops to Iraq, Koizumi also stressed the need to revise the constitution to enable the SDF to play an active role there.

He said Japan might ask U.S. and British coalition forces to guard its SDF troops in Iraq, citing the worsening local security situation in the war-torn country. He also hinted he would welcome their help in revising Japan's constitution.

Japan, whose pacifist constitution has kept its troops from firing a shot in combat since World War II, passed a bill in parliament in July to allow non-combat SDF soldiers to go to Iraq to help the U.S.-led operation there. The troop deployment would mark the first time since the war that Japanese forces would be deployed to combat zone.

According to an Asahi Shimbun poll, some 90 percent of the LDP candidates running for the Nov. 9 election have vowed to revise the controversial constitution.

Some 60 percent of candidates in the opposition Minshuto, or Democratic Party of Japan and half of New Komeito candidates also expressed support for the constitution revision, according to the survey. This is a sign that Japan's political circles are increasingly in favor of amending the constitution.

Japan's top-selling daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, described the Nov. 9 election in an editorial as the "opportunity" to decide the future of the state and the constitution.

Yomiuri and Kyodo News said the ruling coalition led by Koizumi's LDP could win a comfortable majority in the election. The three-party coalition, which includes the New Komeito party and New Conservative Party, is likely to win more than 269 seats in the 480-seat chamber, the polls said.

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