The government refuses to compromise on its position that the Self-Defense Forces are constitutional even if the proposal to specify the SDF in the Constitution is rejected in a national referendum, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Feb. 5.

Abe's longtime policy goal is to amend the Constitution to validate the existence of the SDF in light of pacifist Article 9 that prohibits Japan from maintaining armed forces or resorting to armed force to resolve international disputes.

A constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority of both Diet chambers before holding a national referendum on the issue.

Abe stated his position during a Lower House Budget Committee meeting in response to a question from Yuichiro Tamaki of the opposition Kibo no To (Hope) party.

Article 9 of the Constitution states that Japan will never maintain land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential. It does not make any reference to the SDF, which came into existence in 1954, seven years after the Constitution took effect.

This is a matter Abe wants to change.

Tamaki said that if the government's proposal to specify the SDF in the Constitution was rejected in a national referendum, the unconstitutionality of the SDF would be decided once and for all.

“And that situation must be avoided at all costs,” he added.

In response, Abe said that the government’s standpoint that the SDF is constitutional will remain unchanged.

“What is important for them (SDF members) is their pride in protecting Japan at the risk of their lives,” Abe said.