Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pitching constitutional revision as the primary issue in his bid for a third term as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in the election to be held next month.

But party bigwig Shigeru Ishiba, his only contender so far, is calling for a more cautious approach to this contentious topic.

Abe said Aug. 12 that the election should serve as a catalyst for advancing debate on an issue that has caused a deep rift in public opinion.

Speaking in his home constituency of Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Abe said he wanted the LDP's amendment draft to be submitted to the next Diet session.

He stated that the leadership election offered an opportunity to deepen discussions among party members on the issue so the party can move forward "as a unified force."

Ishiba, who has served in key posts such as secretary-general and announced his intention to run last week, called for further discussions within the LDP since the party has yet to approve a constitutional amendment draft.

At a July 20 news conference, Abe only said that he hoped that an LDP amendment draft would be submitted swiftly.

His latest comment provided a specific time frame, although Abe did not state which Diet session he had in mind.

It would either be the extraordinary Diet session scheduled for this autumn or the ordinary session to be held next year.

The two lawmakers were also at odds over what should be included in an amendment proposal.

Abe touched upon the four issues that the LDP has been mulling as possible amendment items, including a clear reference to the legitimacy of the Self-Defense Forces as well as expanding the range of education that is made free.

Saying there were limits to how long discussions could be held, Abe stressed the importance of adding the SDF to the Constitution.

"It is the responsibility of politicians to establish an environment that will allow all SDF members to carry out their duties with pride," Abe said. "I have resolved to fulfill my responsibility by clearly spelling out the existence of the SDF in the Constitution."

Ishiba said more careful procedures were required in revising pacifist Article 9.

He also said there were more pressing issues that had to be addressed by amending the Constitution, such as scrapping Upper House electoral districts that combine two prefectures and establishing a new clause to deal with emergency situations.

"I feel when it comes to revising the Constitution we should start with issues that are urgent as well as those that can obtain the understanding of the political spectrum," Ishiba said.

Despite the rhetoric being bandied by Abe and Ishiba, it still remains to be seen if other parties will go along with the LDP's pace of constitutional revision.

For one thing, junior coalition partner Komeito has long taken a cautious stance toward amending the Constitution.

The opposition parties may also choose to redouble their resistance to revising the Constitution, especially in light of public outrage over scandals involving two educational institutions, Moritomo Gakuen and the Kake Educational Institution.

Doubts have been raised about the sale at a sharp discount of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen as well as the approval process for a new veterinary medicine faculty operated by Kake Educational Institution.