Collective defense gets panel’s OK

Abe's security wonks pave way for rethink of Constitution

Kyodo

The prime minister’s top panel on security issues has drafted a report to propose that Japan exercise its right to collective self-defense, requiring the government to change its interpretation of the pacifist Constitution, a source said Friday.

The advisory panel is expected to work out the details and submit a final report to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next year. The draft was revealed on Wednesday, the government source said.

Abe wants to bolster the nation’s defensive capabilities and get Japan more proactively involved in global peace and security, but the shift will require legislative revisions and a revamp of the war-renouncing Constitution.

The government’s current read of the Constitution prohibits Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense, or the right to help an ally under attack. Japan’s biggest ally is the United States.

While the right exists under international law, the government believes exercising it would break the defense-only principles spelled out by the Constitution, which bans the use of force to settle international conflicts.

The draft asserts that the government’s current interpretation, which was spelled out by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and has been in place for decades, is incorrect, the source said.

In a unilateral move, Abe recently replaced the director general of the bureau with outsider Ichiro Komatsu, the former ambassador to France. New chiefs are normally appointed from within the bureau.

All of the previous chiefs had agreed that the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9 forbids Japan from collectively militarily defending the United States or any other ally.

The purpose of the bureau is to advise the prime minister and other Cabinet members on legal matters pertaining to state legislation. The newly installed chief is widely viewed as supportive of altering the bureau’s current interpretation of the supreme code.

As for which part of the world the Self-Defense Forces could travel to in order to rescue allies, the report said no “geographical limit” should be established, but added the right should be exercised only when “closely connected security partners” seek cooperation, the source said.