Prime Minister Shinzo Abe marked the 60th anniversary of Japan’s constitution today by calling for a bold review to allow the country to take a larger role in global security and foster a revival of national pride.
Overhauling Japan’s post-war constitution, written by US occupation forces after the Second World War, is one of Mr Abe’s top political goals. The 1947 constitution, which bans military force in settling international disputes and prohibits maintaining a military for warfare, has never been altered.
While several polls this week have suggested substantial support for some changes to the document, one of the surveys showed far more opposition than support for changing the constitution’s pacifist clause.
“A bold review of Japan’s post-war stance and an in-depth discussion of the constitution for a ’new Japan’ is necessary to open up a new era,” Mr Abe said in a statement.
He added that he was also determined to work “toward a Japan that instils confidence and pride among its children”.
In a drive that began under former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the government has been pushing for constitutional changes that would remove some restrictions on Japan’s military, including clearly recognising the country’s right to have a standing army.
Public support for constitutional change is mixed. In separate poll results published today, the Mainichi Shimbun and Nikkei newspapers said 51% of those surveyed supported changing the constitution. It was the first time those supporting a change topped 50%, the Mainichi said.
Japan has already stretched the constitution’s limits, with the government interpreting its pacifist clauses to mean the country can have armed troops to protect itself, allowing the existence of its 240,000-strong Self-Defence Forces.