TOKYO – Japan's new prime minister denied on Tuesday that he wants to change the country's pacifist constitution to permit its military to wage war overseas.
Shinzo Abe, who took office last week on a nationalist platform, has long supported changing the 1947 constitution to allow the military greater freedom of action.
"Criticism that the purpose of our plan to revise the constitution is to become a country that wages war overseas is totally off the mark," Abe said under questioning from opposition lawmakers in the lower house.
Abe, however, declined to discuss details of his intended changes to Article 9 of the U.S.-drafted constitution, which prohibits Japan from using force to resolve international disputes.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has long campaigned to replace the pacifist constitution, in part to facilitate Japan's participation in peacekeeping missions and deployments such as its 2003-2006 non-combat, humanitarian dispatch to Iraq.
A draft of the LDP's revised constitution proposes a full military but intends to keep it to defense only. The armed forces currently are known as "self-defense forces," and the Defense Agency does not have the same status as a full government ministry.
Abe so far has not revealed publicly how he wants to change the constitution, and on Tuesday he only said it would be a matter of discussion between the ruling and opposition parties.