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Komeito fears defense drive

Kyodo

The deputy chief of New Komeito cast doubt on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move to lift the government’s outright ban on using the right to collective self-defense, saying there are cases in which Japan could come to the aid of allies like the United States while defending itself.

If U.S. vessels sailing on the high seas to defend Japan are attacked by a third country, Tokyo could treat it as an armed attack and mobilize the Self-Defense Forces, Kazuo Kitagawa said in a recent interview. His argument runs counter to Abe’s claim that such a situation should be dealt with as a collective self-defense operation.

“We could say clearly that it is the launch of a military attack on our country (legally allowing the SDF to be dispatched),” Kitagawa said. He suggested that the ruling bloc needs to discuss and compile a road map detailing a set of legal challenges to be cleared for national security and have it approved by the Cabinet.

In an effort to revamp security policy, Abe is pushing to change the government’s interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution so Japan can exercise its U.N. right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack.

Abe is expected to ask his Cabinet to approve the controversial move, possibly this summer, if he can get enough support from the ruling bloc led by his conservative Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, which is wary of fully supporting his plan.

New Komeito has been calling for clear limits on the use of collective self-defense, but the government is thinking of not listing specific scenarios to provide more leeway in deciding whether to dispatch the SDF, sources have said.

The government’s current interpretation of the postwar Constitution states that Japan has the right to collective self-defense under international law but cannot exercise it due to the constraints of Article 9, which bans the use of force to settle international disputes and only allows the minimum necessary for self-defense.