Japan plans to change its pacifist constitution

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The Independent Online

Japan's ruling party has announced plans to change the country's pacifist constitution and give the armed forces a more assertive international role.

At a rally to mark the Liberal Democratic Party's 50th anniversary yesterday, thePrime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi,urged Japan to pull its weight as the world's second biggest economy by co-operating more with the international community.

"We need to take up the challenges of strife and conflict that may face international society over the next 50 years," Mr Koizumi said.

Japan's constitution, drafted by the US in 1947, bars the country from employing military force in international disputes and prohibits it from having a military for warfare. But Japan has interpreted the constitution to mean it can maintain a 240,000-strong self-defence force.

In 1992, the government presented a further interpretation that enabled the dispatch of troops to participate in international peacekeeping operations in non-combat roles.

The proposed LDP revision keeps the clause renouncing war, but removes the need for such interpretations by clearly stipulating in the constitution itself that Japan may keep a military force for self-defence and for participating in international peacekeeping efforts.