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Japan PM promises bill to allow referendum on amending constitution

[JURIST] Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe [official website; BBC profile] outlined plans Tuesday to reform the country's pacifist constitution [text] during his time in office. A national referendum would be required before the constitution could be amended and Abe promised Tuesday to pass a "National Referendum Bill" and accompanying procedures during the 2007 parliamentary session.

Abe took office in September after running on a campaign platform promoting changes to the constitution, which forbids "the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" - a restriction imposed by the victorious US after 1945. Japan [JURIST news archive] fears the provision could hinder its ability to respond to a crisis [JURIST report] involving, for example, North Korea [JURIST news archive]. Last week the upper house of the Japanese parliament passed a bill [JURIST report] elevating the Defense Agency [official website] to its pre-World War II status as a full ministry. AFP has more. Kyodo has local coverage.

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