Japan drops 'no-war' pledge

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Japan drops 'no-war' pledge
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

JAPAN- A longtime no-war pledge has disappeared from Japan's Liberal Democratic Party's annual working policy revealed on Sunday, while the ruling party vowed to continue visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and push ahead constitutional revision, in another move leading the country in a far-right direction, observers said.

At its 81st LDP annual convention in Tokyo, the party removed the pledge that Japan would "never wage a war", China Central Television reported on Sunday.

In another change from last year's policy, the party added a phrase saying it will "bolster veneration for the war dead" - referring to continued shrine visits - and also made clear it will amend the country's constitution. The changes show that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also the party chief, will intensify efforts step by step to push Japan further into animosity with neighbouring countries, analysts said.

"The changes in the 2014 position indicate that Japan's rightward inclination is getting increasingly obvious. Removing the pledge of not starting a war is a long-term strategy for Abe," said Gao Hong, a researcher on Japanese studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Wang Xinsheng, a professor of international affairs at Peking University, said it is Abe's ultimate goal to "normalize" Japan, as indicated when he avoided mentioning the no-war pledge on Aug 15, the 68th anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.

The convention on Sunday was held after Japan's neighbouring countries have aired their exacerbated worries over Tokyo's attempts to change its postwar status and return to militarism.

Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine - where 14 Class-A Japanese war criminals are honoured - on Dec 26. He is the first incumbent Japanese prime minister to pay an official visit since 2006.

Abe then reaffirmed the no-war pledge to soothe international anger over his visit, saying he renewed his "determination before the souls of the war dead to firmly uphold the pledge never to wage war again".

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