Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that Japan must consider what role it should play in global affairs as he expressed a willingness to advance the national debate on lifting the self-imposed ban on collective self-defense.
“We will consider and pursue where Japan should stand in global affairs in the 21st century,” Abe told a gathering of senior officials and Self-Defense Forces personnel at the Defense Ministry.
Security concerns posed by China and North Korea have prompted Abe to start a review of Japan’s defense posture to cope with the changing regional security environment. He has revived a government panel to discuss whether to enable Japan to exercise the U.N. right of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally that is under armed attack.
The current interpretation of the pacifist Constitution does not permit the right to be exercised on the grounds that doing so would likely require Japan to use more than the minimum amount of force necessary to defend Japan. Article 9 of the Constitution bans the use of force to settle international disputes.
To coordinate Japan’s response to security threats, the administration is seeking to pass a bill to establish a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, and to draw up a national security strategy as the basis for the country’s security policy.
“We will define national interests from a long-term perspective, and will formulate a national security strategy to ensure national safety,” Abe said.
His remarks came a day after the one-year anniversary of the nationalization of three of the five Senkaku Islands.
The transfer of ownership from their private owner to the central government raised hackles in China, which has continued to send patrol airplanes and ships to the uninhabited islets in protest. A panel was scheduled to meet with the prime minister and Cabinet members later Thursday to discuss national security strategy.
“We will cooperate with countries that share the same values — the rule of law, and freedom of the sea, and strengthen our bonds in security,” Abe said in an apparent reference to China’s growing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.
“Japan needs to face reality and rebuild our security framework,” he added.
But as Abe seeks to bolster Japan’s defense capabilities, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party must win the support of coalition partner New Komeito, which has remained cautious about re-interpreting the Constitution or changing war-renouncing Article 9.