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Iran Press TV

Shinzo Abe calls for pacifist charter to be debated despite no 'supermajority' in parliament

Iran Press TV

Mon Jul 22, 2019 09:35AM

Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has called for a debate on revising the US-imposed pacifist constitution in a bid to further legitimize the country's military; in a move already called for by the US to boost Japan's capabilities against regional powers Russia and China – with the purchase of American weaponry.

Abe called, on Monday, for a debate on amending the constitution's pacifist Article 9 despite failing to secure a "supermajority" in the upper house elections on Sunday.

The prime minister's ruling coalition retained its majority in the upper house in the vote, securing around the half the seats in the chamber, but fell short of the two-thirds "super majority" needed to begin the process of amending the constitution.

The constitution, which has been in place in its original form since it was drafted following Japan's World War Two defeat in 1947, was engineered to prevent the country from waging war and maintaining a military.

Abe made the proposal for change a day after his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition won a solid majority.

"The hurdle of two thirds in both the lower and upper houses is extremely high," Abe told a news conference at his party headquarters.

"I want to produce a reform proposal that can be agreed upon by two thirds beyond the borders of the ruling and opposition camps," he added.

Abe has long been calling for the amendment to the constitution, but there is opposition to the move even among his own ruling coalition.

Experts said that since many within Abe's coalition were already uneasy about the plans, the failure to secure a supermajority was unlikely to significantly change the prime minister's calculations.

He said on Sunday that "we cannot take the timing as a given, but I would like to achieve it (constitutional reform) somehow during my term."

The current prime ministers term runs until September 2021.

Without a two-thirds majority, he would have to tempt other opposition lawmakers to back his proposal. But that also appears to be tough with a lower house election certain to take place at some point between now and 2021.

Any change in the charter must be approved by two-thirds of both houses of parliament and a majority in a public referendum.

Analysts, however, say losing the supermajority is not necessarily "a major setback for Abe."

Surveys, meanwhile, indicate that voters are divided over changing the document, with opponents arguing the move would increase the risk of Japan getting entangled in US-led conflicts in the region.

It has been reported that, late last year, Tokyo put forth plans to order about 100 US-designed F-35 lightning II stealth fighter jets which are capable of vertical take off and landing.

This capability, CNN reported, could prompt Japan to transform some of its existing ships into aircraft carriers so that it could operate the fighters at sea.

Other media outlets also reported that the government will upgrade its two existing Izumo-class helicopter carriers so they can transport and launch fighter jets.

The planned purchase of fighter jets came one year after US President Donald Trump urged Tokyo to buy more US-made military equipment. The reported purchase order is in addition to 42 F-35 jets it has already bought from the US.

Trump had previously urged Abe to buy "massive" amounts of military equipment from the US, saying it would help Japan shoot down missiles from North Korea.

This was firmly opposed by China, a close ally of North Korea, which has long been engaged in a number of disputes with Washington; including the US military presence in the South China Sea as well as a long-running trade war between the two world powers.

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