Japanese parliament disputes pacifist constitution

Japanese lawmakers on Thursday debated how to amend Japan's pacifist constitution, a troubling prospect for Asian neighbors wary of a revival of Japanese militarism in the region.

Discussions at a special committee on constitutional reform focused on legal procedures to revise Japan's top law, which has not been amended since it was drafted by U.S. occupation forces in 1947.

The debate comes after both Japan's ruling coalition and top opposition party expressed their support for amending Article 9 of the constitution, which bars the use of military force in settling international disputes. That would stoke fears of a resurgence of Japanese militarism among Japan's Asian neighbors. The clause also prohibits maintaining a military for warfare, though Japan possesses a self-defense force, a contradiction that lawmakers have said must be addressed by changing the clause to more clearly acknowledge Japan's rights to self-defense.

Toru Nakayama, a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and chairman of the special committee, said while laying out procedures would not immediately lead to making changes to the constitution, discussion was needed to move forward.

"The debate over the constitution has entered a new stage," he said at the committee's opening session Thursday. "We must have a full-fledged discussion with the goal of constitutional reform."

Amendments to the constitution must be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, as well as by a majority of the population in a national referendum. But the government has yet to enact legislation outlining procedures for such a referendum, reports the AP. I.L.

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