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Panel to delay report on collective self-defense until May

Kyodo

A panel of experts endorsed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will postpone until May its submission of a report proposing that Japan lift its ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, a government source said Wednesday.

The decision to postpone the report for about a month will give the administration more time to gain support from New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the source said.

New Komeito has been notified of the delay, the source said.

Although Abe is willing to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution and remove the long-held ban, opinions are divided even within the LDP over the controversial issue that would mark a major change in Japan’s security policy.

The LDP launched a committee Monday to reach a broad understanding within the party on the collective self-defense issue, given some lawmakers are calling for amending the Constitution, rather than changing its interpretation. The government believes it is inappropriate to receive the panel report so soon after the first LDP committee meeting, according to the source.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko told a news conference Wednesday that the government “does not have a preset deadline” for the panel report.

Headed by former Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai, the panel on security issues has been discussing whether Japan should engage in collective self-defense, or defending allies under armed attack even when the country has not been directly attacked.

Abe has said his administration will make a final decision after receiving the panel’s report, originally slated for April at the earliest, and that Cabinet approval will suffice should the administration decide to lift the ban.

The panel will likely propose Japan should exercise the right under five scenarios, such as when the country’s security will be greatly threatened if no action is taken, and when Japan receives clear requests from allies and friendly nations such as the United States.

The experts are also expected to urge the government to approve dispatching the Self-Defense Forces for collective defense and for dealing with “gray zone” incidents that are short of full-fledged attacks on Japan.

Japan has maintained it has the right to collective self-defense under international law but cannot exercise it due to limits imposed by Article 9 of the Constitution. The clause forbids the use of force to settle international disputes, and only allows the minimum to defend itself.