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No need to explain Japan constitutional revision to China: Abe


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he sees no need to explain to China and South Korea his cherished goal of rewriting Japan's pacifist Constitution.

"It is our country's Constitution, so it is not an issue that needs to be explained" to China and South Korea, Abe told reporters accompanying him on his visit to Saudi Arabia.

To achieve the goal of revising the Constitution, Abe said he will aim to secure a two-thirds majority in this summer's upper house election.

He also said any reaction from China or South Korea over his attempt to achieve the revision would "not influence" the course of political discussions.

Abe's comments came as relations with China and South Korea have become frayed over territorial rows and recent visits by some of his Cabinet ministers to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Japan's war dead are honored along with convicted war criminals.

China and South Korea, which see the shrine as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, have been irked by Abe's right-leaning political stance.

The Liberal Democratic Party, headed by Abe, believes that the current Constitution was created under the heavy influence of the U.S. occupation and it is no longer sufficient to "protect the people, territory and sovereignty."

Among many constitutional amendment plans, the ruling party aims to revise the war-renouncing Article 9 to enable the Self-Defense Forces to become a full military.

Abe, who has until now focused more on reviving Japan's economy, suggested that whether it is necessary to rewrite the war-renouncing Constitution would be a major issue to be debated by political parties in the run-up to the House of Councillors election.

The prime minister, whose Cabinet has enjoyed high approval ratings since its formation in December, said "there is no change" regarding the LDP pushing for constitutional revision in the next national election.

"I want to start with Article 96," he said, referring to the provision that states constitutional amendments must be backed by a vote of at least two-thirds of all the members of each house of parliament.

Abe has been hoping to relax the requirement stipulated in the article to make it easier to rewrite the Constitution, which has not been amended since it was enforced in 1947.

Together with its junior coalition partner the New Komeito party, the LDP returned to power after three years in opposition following a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election in December.

The New Komeito party, backed by the major lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, has adopted a cautious stance on revising the Constitution

But Abe's LDP can rely on the support of the Japan Restoration Party and other political groups to achieve the two-thirds majority in the more powerful lower house.

Abe said he wants to discuss constitutional issues with his coalition partner "with sincerity."

Abe, who is on a four-nation tour through Saturday, was in Saudi Arabia after visiting Russia.

He again showed his strong desire to settle a long-standing territorial dispute with Russia involving four islands off northern Japan during his premiership.

Abe said the dispute dating back to the end of World War II will not be solved unless he and Russian President Vladimir Putin "make decisions."

The dispute over the ownership of the islands -- Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islet group -- which are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia, has prevented the two countries from signing a postwar peace treaty.

Putin mentioned to Abe during their talks Monday in Moscow that Russia has previously settled some of its border issues with other countries by splitting the disputed areas evenly, according to a Japanese government source.

Abe stopped short of confirming whether Putin made reference to Russia's previous resolution of territorial disputes and said that Japan's policy of seeking the return of all four islands and then signing a bilateral peace treaty remains intact.