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Cabinet will decide defense role: Abe

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that Cabinet approval is enough to change the government’s interpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 and allow Japan to help defend allied nations.

Previous administrations have followed the interpretation by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau that Japan cannot exercise the right of collective self-defense. Abe said the decision will be made by the Cabinet, not by the head of the bureau.

“Ultimately, the Cabinet will approve the reinterpretation,” Abe said during a session of the powerful Lower House Budget Committee. “And I am the one who is ultimately responsible for the Cabinet.”

He said that the administration will consider the issue along with the ruling camp before the matter comes before the Cabinet for approval, and the administration would also submit bills to the Diet necessary to amend the Self-Defense Forces Law.

Abe apparently wants to go ahead with the reinterpretation before Tokyo and Washington compile new Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines at the end of this year, as collective self-defense would play a crucial part in upping Japan’s role in the alliance.

He made the remarks a week after the opposition camp and some media branded him as ignoring the concept of constitutionalism by claiming that a prime minister, if his party wins a public mandate at the ballot box, can change the interpretation of the Constitution even though it has been established through years of Diet debate.

On Thursday he rebuffed the criticism, saying he never claimed he alone can make the final decision on whether to assume the right of collective self-defense.