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Japan Mulls Constitutional Changes

November 1, 2002

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TOKYO (AP) _ Japanese lawmakers received a parliamentary report Friday that raised the traditionally taboo issue of scrapping a clause in the constitution that renounces war.

The supreme law, written by U.S. occupation forces after World War II, is a cornerstone of Japanese democracy and has not been amended since its 1947 adoption.

But after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a growing number of Japanese lawmakers have expressed interest in changing Article 9, the section that renounces Japan’s right to wage war.

The report presented Friday outlined the pros and cons of changing the constitution, but did not give recommendations.

Lawmakers in the current special session of Parliament may consider a bill to outline the role of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, the euphemistic term for the military, in case of invasion.

At the same time, more politicians are advocating changes in Article 9 to give the government more freedom to participate in international peacekeeping operations and to assist allies in conflicts.

Japan needs to spell out its right to aid allies if they are attacked, a subject of debate among legal scholars, according to the report.

The government found itself restricted by Article 9 last fall when it debated whether to help the United States in the war on terrorism. While Parliament eventually sent troops to the Indian Ocean, they could only provide non-combat support.

A March poll of Parliament’s upper and lower houses by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper showed 55 percent of lawmakers favor amending Article 9, up from 41 percent five years ago.

Despite the trend, amending any part of the constitution is likely to be difficult. Public opinion is still cautious and many opposition lawmakers remain strongly opposed.

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