Government may put off decision on collective self-defense

Kyodo

The government may postpone until the summer officially changing its constitutional interpretation to enable the country to come to the defense of allies under attack, amid calls from within the ruling coalition for a careful debate on the matter, government and coalition sources said Sunday.

The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had planned to change the interpretation through a decision by the Cabinet by the June 22 end of the current session of the Diet.

But at a meeting on March 6, Abe and others, including Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, agreed that such a decision should not be made hastily, the sources said.

The plan has already been conveyed to a senior official of the LDP’s junior coalition partner, New Komeito, which has been cautious about reinterpreting Article 9 of the Constitution in a way that would allow Japan to lift its self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, according to the sources.

The Abe government still plans to maintain its existing policy of seeking changes to the Self-Defense Forces law and other legislation during the next Diet session in the fall to reflect the envisioned reinterpretation of the Constitution in the revision of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.

But to accommodate the postponement, the government and the coalition may put off such legislative moves until the regular session of the Diet next year, the sources said.

Besides the reservations within New Komeito, the LDP itself remains divided, with Masashi Waki, secretary-general of the LDP caucus in the House of Councilors, telling a news conference earlier this month that there is a need for further internal debate.

For decades, the government has maintained that Japan has the right to collective self-defense but cannot exercise it due to limits imposed by Article 9, which forbids the use of force to settle international disputes, because doing so would go beyond the minimum necessary to defend the country.