Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the House of Councillors on Feb. 1 that he is seeking revisions to Article 9 of Japan's "peace Constitution" that would transform the nation's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) into a "national defense military."
"Within Japan, the SDF is not called an army, but it is treated as a military under international law," Abe told legislators. "This contradiction must be squared with reality; it needs to be done away with." Seeking to allay fears of renewed Japanese militarism, Abe added, "We have no intention of altering the iron-clad principle of civilian control, or the pacifism and abandonment of war embodied in our Constitution."
Rebranding the SDF an official military force -- currently forbidden under Article 9 of Japan's postwar Constitution -- was one of the major promises made by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) during the general election campaign in December last year. His Feb. 2 comments, however, marked the first time he formally expressed this goal to the Diet since becoming prime minister on Dec. 26.