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January 01, 2014

Japan's Abe Calls for Discussion on Constitution

by VOA News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has renewed his call to amend Japan's pacifist constitution just days after angering his neighbors by visiting a controversial war shrine.

In a New Year's Day message, Abe said he wants more national discussions on revising the document, which was written in the immediate aftermath of WWII, to help "deal with the changing times."

The constitution, imposed by the United States following Japan's defeat, prohibits Tokyo from developing a full-fledged military and from using force to settle international disputes.

Abe, who took power for a second time one year ago, wants to revise the constitution to allow for what he calls a more "proactive peace policy" around the world.

The move appears to be aimed at countering the rising military strength of China, which is in a territorial dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.

In an apparent reference to that dispute, Abe vowed in his address Wednesday to "resolutely protect to the end Japan's territorial land, sea and air."

Abe outraged China and South Korea last month by visiting a Tokyo shrine that honors Japan's nearly 2.5 million war dead, including 14 convicted WWII war criminals.

China, South Korea and North Korea - all of which were victims of Japan's imperial aggression - consider the visits an insult.