Alliance with US key to Japan's foreign policy: Abe

PM calls ties an 'unchanging principle', pushes for change to pacifist Constitution

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday stressed the Japan-United States alliance as the foundation of his country's diplomacy and security policies, calling it an "unchanging principle".

In his policy speech delivered to plenary sessions of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, the Prime Minister also called for changing the country's pacifist Constitution.

Speaking in Parliament just hours before the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, Mr Abe described the Japan-US alliance as the linchpin of Japanese foreign policy and security, touting this as an "unchanging principle".

He also said that he wanted to hold talks with Mr Trump as soon as possible after the inauguration of the US leader.

"The Japan-US alliance has been, is and will be the cornerstone of our country's diplomatic and security policies," Mr Abe said.

"This is an immutable principle," he added.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, Mr Abe described the deal as "the foundation for the future economic partnership".

Mr Trump has vowed to withdrawn the US from the TPP.

The Japanese leader also said yesterday that with the TPP's outlook bleak, Japan would take a leadership role in negotiations over the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership free trade mega-pact.

Mr Abe also called on the Diet members to deepen discussions on the constitutional amendment, claiming that this year was a suitable time for changing Japan's pacifist Constitution, which came into force 70 years ago.

Altering the pacifist Constitution has been one of the Prime Minister's longstanding goals.

With gains in the Upper House elections in July last year, Mr Abe's ruling bloc and like-minded forces in favour of changing the Constitution now make up two-thirds of both chambers of the Parliament, a prerequisite for proposing constitutional amendments.

Mr Abe yesterday also addressed the sensitive issue regarding the Japanese Emperor's abdication, saying that efforts to formulate legislation would require the understanding of the public.

Emperor Akihito indicated his wish to abdicate in a video message in August last year.

According to local media, if the Emperor is to abdicate, the Imperial House Law might need revision, as the law, enacted in 1947 to rule for imperial affairs, does not include any provision for a reigning emperor to abdicate.

The Diet members will discuss the contents of Mr Abe's policy speech as well as the speeches made by some other Cabinet ministers in the question-and-answer sessions next week.

XINHUA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Alliance with US key to Japan's foreign policy: Abe'. Print Edition | Subscribe