Kishida Stresses Urgent Need for Constitutional Reform

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Participants at an event on constitutional amendment watch a video message from Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Kumamoto on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the urgent need to revise the Constitution in a video message screened at an event in Tokyo on Wednesday, the anniversary of the enforcement of Japan’s top law.

On the day, senior officials of both ruling and opposition parties made their cases for and against constitutional amendment.

“As we face the most severe and complex postwar security environment, it is extremely important to firmly position the Self-Defense Forces in the Constitution,” Kishida said, referring to situations such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches.

He stressed his intention to realize at an early date the LDP’s four-point constitutional amendment proposal, which includes a clause stipulating the legal basis for the Self-Defense Forces.

The other three points comprise the inclusion of an emergency clause, a revision of upper house constituency demarcation and a change aimed at improving education.

“These are contemporary issues that must be swiftly addressed,” Kishida said.

The prime minister welcomed the work of the House of Representatives’ Commission on the Constitution in identifying major discussion points regarding the emergency clause. “Discussion has been deepened … I hope the debate will continue in a sincere and calm manner,” he said.

It is the second consecutive year Kishida has sent a video message to Constitution Day events as the president of the Liberal Democratic Party.

“At this time of great social change, we must continue facing up to the challenge,” he said, expressing eagerness for constitutional reform, as he did last year.

It is important to build momentum for constitutional revision “now more than ever,” said Kishida, who aims to have the top law revised before his current term as LDP president expires in September 2024.

Senior officials of the LDP, Komeito, Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Democratic Party for the People called for discussions on the inclusion of an emergency clause in the Constitution to be expedited at Wednesday’s event.

“The issues have been boiled down,” said Masahiko Shibayama, deputy chairperson of the LDP Headquarters for the Realization of Revision of the Constitution. “I’m confident that we can reach a conclusion as soon as possible.”

Masakazu Hamachi, secretary general of Komeito’s research committee on the Constitution, said, “It’s an issue that should be addressed immediately from the perspective of maintaining the functioning of the Diet,” regarding the extension of lawmakers’ terms in the event of emergency.

Shun Otokita, chairperson of Ishin’s Policy Research Council, criticized the upper house’s Commission on the Constitution, calling for active discussions. “It must be said that discussions have been slow,” he said.

DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki said a “concrete schedule” was needed, and called for the compilation of draft articles during the extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

LDP, Ishin and DPFP officials also spoke about revising Article 9 of the Constitution to clarify the status of the SDF. “This must be accomplished,” Shibayama said.

Hamachi advocated adding provisions to Articles 72 and 73, which state the authority of the prime minister and the Cabinet. “I’m considering writing it from the perspective of democratic control of the SDF,” he said.

Leaders and officials of parties against constitutional revision attended an event to “protect” the Constitution in Tokyo on the same day.

“Constitutional revision that concentrates power in the hands of the government is unnecessary,” said Chinami Nishimura, acting leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii criticized the Kishida administration for clearing the path for the possession of “counterstrike capabilities.”

Officials from the Social Democratic Party and Reiwa Shinsengumi also attended the event.