Factbox: Key facts about Japan's constitution, proposed changes

TOKYO Thu May 23, 2013 10:25pm EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is making amending the pacifist, U.S.-drafted constitution one focus of his ruling party's campaign for July's upper house election. He hopes pro-revision parties will obtain the two-thirds majority that would pave the way for the first-ever revision to the 1947 charter.

Following are some key facts about the constitution - which has never been revised - and changes proposed by Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

HISTORY

*A small group of Americans drafted the constitution during one week in February 1946 in a ballroom at the top of the Daiichi Building in Tokyo. Based on principles set out by General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in Japan, it said Japan should renounce its sovereign right to wage war or maintain armed forces. The constitution took effect on May 3, 1947.

*Many conservative Japanese leaders believed at the time the constitution was adopted it would be revised once Japan regained its independence.

KEY PROVISIONS

*Article 9, one of the constitution's most contentious elements, reads as follows: "Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

"In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

*Article 97 provides a guarantee of basic human rights: "The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate."

*Article 96 requires revisions to be approved by two-thirds of the members of each chamber of parliament and a majority of voters in a special public referendum.

KEY LDP PROPOSED CHANGES

*Article 96 would be changed to allow revisions approved by majorities of each chamber of parliament and a majority of voters in a public referendum.

*Article 9 would be revised to recognize Japan's right to maintain "National Defense Forces" for the purpose of protecting Japan's peace and independence and the safety of its people as well as contribute to international peace and safety. The military would be empowered to maintain "public order". Japan would still renounce the right to make war.

*Article 97 guaranteeing fundamental human rights would be deleted. A revised Article 12 would state the people "shall be aware that duties and obligations accompany freedoms and rights and shall never violate the public order and public interest".

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; editing by Bill Tarrant)

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