Japan's Abe to push for constitution reform before year end: media

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attends a news conference after close of regular parliament session at his official residence in Tokyo, Japan, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to accelerate plans to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution, saying he expects to submit a proposed revision to lawmakers before the end of the year, media reported on Sunday.

Abe said in a speech in Kobe city on Saturday he planned to submit a proposal for the first ever amendment of Japan’s post-World War Two constitution during an extraordinary session of parliament that will be convened later this year, Japan’s main daily newspapers reported.

Abe has proposed amending the constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 by 2020 to officially recognize Japan’s Self-Defense Forces as its military.

Such a change could draw fire from China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan’s past military aggression persist. They would likely see the change as a step toward the re-emergence of Japan as a military power.

Abe had been expected to wait until next year before seeking legislators’ approval of the change. He would need to win the support of two-thirds of members of both houses of parliament and a majority of votes in a referendum.

Supporters of Japan’s post-war pacifism view Article 9 as the foundation of its democracy. Many conservatives see it as a humiliation imposed by the United States after Japan’s defeat in 1945.

Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Robert Birsel