Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Sunday to push for changes to the country's pacifist constitution—a move likely to stir unease in both the countries, which were among victims of Tokyo’s 20th century militarism.
Abe was speaking at the annual convention of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which adopted a wide-ranging action plan, including efforts to create an “independent constitution” to replace the U.S.-imposed postwar charter which bans the use of force in settling international disputes.
The ban limits the so-called Self-Defense Forces to a strictly defensive role and bars them from taking aggressive action.
The hawkish Abe has said Japan must redefine its rules of engagement to provide "an effective deterrent against North Korea and balance China’s growing military might".
Abe said in January he intends to change the constitution, by modifying an article which stipulates that amendments need a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The LDP and its junior coalition partner New Komeito have a more-than two-thirds majority in the lower house, but New Komeito and some LDP factions are cautious about amendments.
The less powerful upper house is controlled by no single party, but the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has the greatest number of seats.
Elections for half the upper house seats must be held around July.
“We will definitely win through the (upper house) election and reestablish a proud Japan,” Abe told the convention.
The party action plan also reaffirmed Japan’s intention to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, despite persistent objections from farmers and others.
It said Japan will negotiate “in a manner which will protect national interests including the agriculture and fishery sector.”
“I will definitely protect Japan’s agriculture and food. I want you to trust me,” Abe said.