Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Thursday warned China that it may have violated the United Nations Charter when its warships locked their fire-control radars on a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and helicopter last month and called for setting up a hotline between Tokyo and Beijing.
The Chinese actions “may have been a threat of military force under the U.N. Charter, and we will review how Japan can respond to such action,” Onodera said during a session of the Lower House Budget Committee.
He was responding to a question by Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba, who said some experts argue that international law would allow Japan to retaliate against such a provocation, and asked which laws should be applied in these circumstances.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meanwhile said establishing a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council is necessary to respond to military threats like this in a timely manner.
“We do have the legislation to define the nation’s response to foreign military attack. But we need a Japanese NSC to analyze whether such a threat goes beyond the coverage of that legislation,” said Abe, who plans to convene a study group Feb. 15 to explore establishing such a team of security advisers.
Onodera said Japan and China need a bilateral mechanism to avoid such incidents. The two nations agreed in 2011 during talks at the deputy minister level to set up a hotline by the end of 2012. The effort was put on the back burner, however, when the central government essentially nationalized the disputed Senkaku Islands in September.
Also at the committee session, Seiji Maehara of the Democratic Party of Japan touched on Abe’s take on the wartime sex slave issue and criticized him for shifting responsibility for reviewing the so-called Kono statement to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a statement admitting Japanese forces and authorities bore responsibility for forcibly recruiting at least some of the “comfort women.”
“In your first term as prime minister your Cabinet approved a statement that there was no coercion by the military. When you were elected as the LDP president, you said you will ‘rectify that dishonorable statement so that we will not pass that smeared legacy to our grandchildren,’ ” Maehara said.
Abe responded that it would damage Japan’s foreign relations if the prime minister were to take the initiative on this issue, and it is better to have experts review the historical facts before drafting a new statement.
Asked about possible visits to Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war criminals as well as Japan’s war dead, Abe was noncommittal, except to regret not going during his first prime ministership.