The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its pacifist coalition partner, New Komeito, will begin talks shortly among working-level officials on Japan’s right to exercise collective self-defense, although the discussions are expected to be tough and possibly divisive.
With a government panel on legal frameworks for Japan’s national security seen drawing up a report on the collective self-defense rights by the end of the year at the earliest, the two parties are looking to coordinate their views on the issue.
The LDP wants to allow Japan to exercise collective self-defense, whereas New Komeito hopes to keep unchanged the government’s current interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution, which prohibits Japan from exercising such rights.
In Aug. 7 talks, LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba and his New Komeito counterpart, Yoshihisa Inoue, agreed on the need to set up a consultative body to discuss the issue between the two parties.
The two will meet again later this month to discuss details of the ruling bloc forum, including who will participate.
In proposals submitted in 2008 to the Cabinet of then-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, a government panel on security-related legal frameworks said the country should be allowed to exercise the rights so it can intercept ballistic missiles that may be targeting the United States and to protect U.S. warships on the high seas.
The panel, which is poised to resume talks next month, is expected to call on the current government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to consider allowing Japan to exercise the rights comprehensively by citing several examples, according to a source close to Abe.
But New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi has said his party cannot tolerate the country being allowed to exercise the rights based on the government’s current constitutional interpretation. If New Komeito gives ground on this issue, it will lose its identity as a pacifist party, sources said.
A senior New Komeito official warned that the issue could affect whether the party can continue its coalition partnership with the LDP.
Yamaguchi said in a television program last month that if a U.S. warship is attacked when sailing side by side with a Self-Defense Forces vessel, it would be possible for the SDF ship to counterattack based on Japan’s individual self-defense rights and treating the attack as one targeted at itself. Such a counterstrike is allowed under the current constitutional interpretation, he noted.
Following the remarks by Yamaguchi, New Komeito is expected to seek solutions other than a reinterpretation of the Constitution.
However, a New Komeito executive cautioned that the LDP may ignore its coalition partner’s opinion, as the need for electoral cooperation between the two parties could weaken now that there is no need for a national-level election before 2016, when the terms of office expire for lawmakers of both the Lower House and part of the Upper House.
The ruling coalition recaptured a combined majority in the House of Councilors with its victory in the July 21 election, a development that ended the divided Diet.