Japanese people remain divided over whether to amend the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, but supporters of a change slightly outnumbered opponents amid concerns over North Korea and China’s military buildup, a Kyodo News survey showed Saturday.

According to the mail-in survey conducted ahead of the 70th anniversary of the enforcement of the post-World War II Constitution next Wednesday, 49 percent of respondents said Article 9 needs to be revised against 47 percent opposing a change.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been eager to rewrite the supreme law, including Article 9, 51 percent were against any constitutional amendments under the Abe administration, compared with 45 percent in favor.

Many people recognized the role Article 9 has played in Japan’s pacifism, with 75 percent of respondents saying the clause has enabled Japan to stay away from using force overseas since the end of World War II in 1945.

Among those in favor of amending Article 9, the largest group, at 66 percent, cited “the changing security environment surrounding Japan, such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as China’s military expansion.”

The next largest group at 20 percent said a change is needed to sort out what they perceive as a contradiction between the provision and the existence of the Self-Defense Forces.

The current Constitution has never been revised since it went into effect in 1947, nor has a bid been made to initiate a formal amendment process, partly because of the high hurdle in proposing an amendment in parliament before it can be put to a referendum.

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