Cabinet OKs security council bills

Team modeled after U.S. NSC; law eyed to protect classified intel

Kyodo, JIJI

The Cabinet approved bills Friday aimed at strengthening the leadership of the prime minister’s office in security and foreign policy matters by establishing an institution similar to the U.S. National Security Council.

Under the policy framework envisioned by the bills, a standing council comprised of the prime minister, chief Cabinet secretary and the foreign and defense ministers will determine basic government policy, while its secretariat, to be set up in the Cabinet Secretariat, will coordinate the specifics among ministries and agencies.

The administration aims to speed up the decision-making process by involving a smaller number of participants, compared with the Security Council of Japan, which is made up of the prime minister and eight other ministers.

Relevant ministries will also be obliged to submit intelligence and other information to the new council. The requirement is designed to prevent them from keeping information amid turf wars.

To better protect classified information, the government is considering a national secret protection law to impose stricter penalties on breach of confidentiality than those based on the national civil service law.

“The security environment surrounding us is very severe,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a meeting of the conventional Security Council of Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that the new framework will enable officials to “share (within the government) what the issues are, and make quick judgments.”

Suga said the four new council members will gather to discuss security issues on a regular basis, probably every two weeks.

The government will submit the bills to the Diet during its current session through June 26. But due to the tight schedule of the session, the administration hopes to carry them over to an extraordinary session in autumn for approval, sources said.

In April 2007, the previous Abe government submitted legislation to create a Japanese version of the NSC. It was scrapped due to failure to finish Diet deliberations.