By Hyun Oh
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's pacifist constitution is an example for the world despite changes that have cleared the way for its troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War Two, the head of a group tipped as a Nobel Peace Prize contender said.
Naomi Takasu, 38, heads a group that seeks to uphold and preserve the constitution's Article 9, under which the Japanese people "forever renounce war as a sovereign right ... and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes".
Parliament last month voted into law a major security policy reform that could allow Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since 1945 - a key part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to loosen the constitution's constraints.
"The constitution is not yet compromised – it still stands as the supreme rule in this country and is strong enough to override any clashing legislation," Takasu told Reuters in a recent interview.
Takasu's group has lobbied for the Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 9, in order to preserve the pacifist article and promote it to the world.
The constitution was imposed on a defeated Japan by occupying Allied Forces after World War Two and enjoys broad public support.
Thousands of protesters rallied for days near parliament in a vain bid to block the bills, which end a ban on Japan going to the defense of an ally.
Critics say the legislation makes a mockery of the constitution.
"I hope the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to encourage the efforts of individuals struggling to preserve the constitution that stands against wars," Takasu said, adding that she regarded the charter as protection for her two children.
Abe says the biggest change in Japan's defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954 is vital to meet new challenges such as a rising China.
Takasu wrote to the Nobel committee in 2013 to tell it of her support for Article 9, and she was joined by friends and neighbors to form their group, which they have called The Nobel Peace Prize for Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.
Takasu said winning the prize was not as important as the message embodied in war-renouncing Article 9.
"I want the spirit of the constitution to spread out to the world," she said.
(Writing by Elainie Lies; Editing by Robert Birsel)