Respectful debate needed for constitutional revision: Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday it is necessary for his Liberal Democratic Party to discuss "in a respectful manner" with its coalition partner New Komeito his proposal to revise Article 96 of the Constitution.

Abe's remark to reporters apparently reflects his consideration for the coalition partner, which remains cautious about the revision to make it easier to rewrite the Constitution.

"Public debates over the issue have not deepened yet, and we have not yet gained sufficient support," Abe also said.

Article 96 states that any initiative to revise the Constitution must be backed by at least two-thirds of the members of each house of parliament, before an "affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast" in a referendum.

The LDP plans to push the change to Article 96 as part of its pledges for the upper house election to be held this summer.

Abe attended a ceremony at Tokyo Dome on Sunday, wearing a Yomiuri Giants uniform with the number 96, before the professional baseball game between the Giants and the Hiroshima Carp.

The game followed the award ceremony for former Yomiuri manager Shigeo Nagashima and former major leaguer Hideki Matsui, both of whom played for the Giants and received the People's Honor Award.

Asked by reporters if his uniform number is related to his proposal for revising Article 96, a smiling Abe said, "It is because I am the 96th prime minister."