Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday reaffirmed his resolve to change the nation's pacifist constitution imposed by the U.S. after Japan's defeat in World War II.
In a New Year message to the nation, Abe said: "As it has been 68 years since its enactment now, national debate should be further deepened toward a revision of the constitution to grasp the changing times. Now is the time for Japan to take a big step forward toward a new nation-building effort."
Abe said the constitution, which limits Japan's military to self-defense could be amended by 2020, "will have been revised" by 2020 when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
His comments come days after he enraged Asian neighbors and disappointed Washington by visiting a Tokyo shrine honoring the country's war dead, including World War II leaders, and been seen abroad as a symbol of Japan's militaristic past.
"By 2020, I think Japan will have completely restored its status and been making great contributions to peace and stability in the region and the world," he said.
He added that Japan's elevated status could possibly help Asia become a "balanced and stable region".
Abe took power a year ago in an election landslide as Japan faced China's increasingly assertive military posture amid a fierce territorial dispute with Beijing over Tokyo-controlled islands.
He initially focused on improving the economy with stimulus packages, mixing big-spending and easy money policies.
In recent months, he has turned to his more conservative agenda, passing a state secrecy law which critics say is a threat to democracy in Japan.
On his security policy, Abe said, "We will resolutely protect to the end Japan's territorial land, sea and air."
Abe has long agitated for the amendment of a key article in the constitution that limits its military to self-defense and bans the use of force in settling international disputes.
The country's well-funded and well-equipped military is referred to as the Self-Defense Forces (SDF).
Abe has said he would like to look into making the SDF a full-fledged military, a plan that sets alarm bells ringing in Asian countries subject to Japan's occupation in the first half of the 20th century.
In his first policy as prime minister last year, Abe said he would look to change a provision which requires a two-thirds majority in the Diet to amend the basic law.
In his New Year message, Abe said the launch of a U.S.-style National Security Council in December would help promote his "proactive pacifism" as a "'signboard of the 21st century' which should be borne by our country."© (c) 2014 AFP