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Monday, 14 May 2007

Japan back to the war club

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe scored a victory in his drive to rewrite Japan's pacifist constitution and ease its limits on military actions overseas on Monday when parliament enacted a law outlining steps for a referendum on revising the post-World War Two charter.

Abe, at 52 Japan's first prime minister born after the war, has made revising the 1947 constitution a key element in his efforts to boost Japan's role in global security affairs, limited for decades by the constitution's pacifist Article 9.

Drafted by U.S. occupation authorities during one frantic week in February 1947, the constitution has never been altered and procedures for a referendum had not been specified.

Under the referendum law, approved by parliament's upper house on Monday, no vote on revising the constitution would be held for at least three years, but its enactment will increase momentum for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's push to state clearly in the charter Japan's right to maintain a military.