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Campaigners in a push for pacifist Japanese to win Nobel Peace Prize

TOKYO -- Campaigners are pushing for Japan's population to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize in a nod to the country's long-held pacifism, even as Tokyo controversially expands the scope of the military in a move that has sparked protests at home.

By Friday, the group had amassed a support petition with more than 150,000 names, and organizers say Japan's 128-million residents are now among the possible candidates for the prestigious award.

But even if the odds are slim — there are hundreds of candidates — the message is just as important, said 37-year-old housewife Naoko Takasu, who came up with the plan.

It was not possible to nominate Japan's pacifist constitution — put in place after the end of World War II — so activists moved to get the peace-loving population on the prize list instead.

“The idea came to me when I was watching a TV report about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union,” she told AFP.

“Good initiatives can win the prize — that's what I learned from the news. And that made me think about Article 9 (of the constitution)... If we succeed and win the prize, that would be a great way to share its ideals.”

Japan's constitution — specifically Article 9 — renounces war and abandons the use of force to settle international disputes, a point embraced by many Japanese and a symbol of the country's peaceful image in much of the world.

But last week, Tokyo loosened the bonds on its powerful military, proclaiming the right to go into battle in defense of allies, in a highly controversial shift.

Conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet formally endorsed a reinterpretation of the rules that have banned the use of armed force except in very narrowly defined circumstances.

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