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Japan’s ruling bloc set to force state secrets bill to vote

Kyodo

The ruling bloc will put the controversial secrets bill to a vote in the Upper House on Friday, leaving a rift open with the opposition camp over the independent oversight system to ensure the public’s right to know.

The Upper House, controlled by the ruling bloc, will undoubtedly vote in favor of the proposed legislation even though opposition parties are calling for further deliberation and appear ready to try to keep the ruling bloc from ramming it through.

The largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan made a last-ditch effort to buy time and submitted censure motions against Masako Mori, the Cabinet member guiding the bill through the Diet, as well as Masaharu Nakagawa, chairman of the special Upper House committee that approved the bill before Friday’s vote.

The DPJ was also threatening to submit a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito had planned to seek passage through the Upper House on Thursday, but postponed the vote.

Senior ruling party lawmakers decided to extend the legislative session for two days until Sunday to ensure the passage of other bills, including one to create special strategic economic zones.

“There is no change in our plan to handle the (secrecy) bill by the end of Friday,” Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the LDP, said at a news conference.

Under the proposed law, special secrets are defined as sensitive information on diplomacy, defense, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage. Leakers, such as civil servants, of special secrets would face up to 10 years in prison, and those who instigate leaks would get a maximum of five years.

Opposition parties are united in criticizing the way Diet deliberations ended without sufficient time being spent on a mechanism independent of the government to oversee the designation and declassification of state secrets.