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TOKYO－Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, eyeing a historic extended term, on Monday reaffirmed his resolve to revise the nation"s postwar Pacifist Constitution and said he hoped his party could submit a proposal to parliament later this year.
Abe, who returned to office in December 2012 pledging to bolster the military and reboot the economy, is widely expected to defeat his rival, former defense minister Shigeru Ishiba, in a Sept 20 election for leader of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
A victory would effectively keep Abe in power for another three-year term at the helm of the world"s third-largest economy, with no real political party opposition to speak of. It will also set him on track to become Japan"s longest serving prime minister, given the LDP-led ruling coalition"s grip on parliament.
Article 9 of Japan"s Constitution, forged in the aftermath of World War II, forces the country to "forever renounce war" and stipulates that armed forces will "never be maintained".
This creates a headache for Japan"s Self-Defense Forces, a well-equipped military stuck in a constitutional gray zone.
Abe wants to add a reference to the SDF to clarify their status.
That would be a largely symbolic change but one long sought by conservatives who see the United States-drafted Constitution as a humiliating reminder of defeat in the war and opposed by critics who worry about expanding the SDF"s role overseas.
"Isn"t it the mission of us politicians living today to create an environment in which they (SDF members) can carry out their duties with a sense of pride?" Abe said in a televised speech to LDP members.
"Let"s fulfill our mission by clearly writing in the Constitution the Self-Defense Forces that protect peace and independence of Japan."
Abe told a news conference that he hoped the LDP could present its proposal to parliament in an extra session likely to be held later this year.
An attempt to revise the Constitution would be politically risky. The public is divided and the LDP"s dovish partner, the Komeito, is wary. Amendments require approval of two-thirds of both houses of parliament and a majority in a referendum.
Abe also vaunted the record of his "Abenomics" policy, which combines ultraloose monetary policy with fiscal stimulus in a bid to pep up the former Asian economic powerhouse. "The ratio of job offers to seekers is at a record high,... we were able to regain a decent economy," he said.
With two massive international sporting events coming up－the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics－Abe said his policy of boosting tourism is also "working as an detonator" to boost local economies.
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