Abe to get Article 9 proposals Thursday

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

An advisory panel hand-picked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will submit a report Thursday proposing conditions under which Japan would be able to exercise the right to collective self-defense in the event the constitutional ban is lifted.

Abe is slated to hold a news conference Thursday to outline how the government will proceed with discussions on the sensitive matter, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday.

He is also expected to convene a four-minister meeting of the National Security Council with Suga, the defense minister and the foreign minister on Thursday after receiving the report from the panel, which is headed by Shunji Yanai, a former ambassador to the U.S.

Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said Tuesday that the LDP wants to begin talks with its junior coalition partner New Komeito as early as this week, by setting up a consultation body to discuss the issue. But it is unclear whether the LDP can strike an agreement with New Komeito, which is against changing the government’s interpretation of the Constitution.

Abe originally intended to lift the ban on collective self-defense with a mere Cabinet decision, before the Diet closes on June 22. But he has since backpedaled, saying there is no deadline for the move after encountering opposition from New Komeito, which is backed by lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai.

New Komeito President Natsuo Yamaguchi said Tuesday that his party would not leave the coalition just because it differs on certain policies with the LDP, but he still wary about giving the green light for collective self-defense because that was not part of the deal in setting up the coalition.

“The Japanese people do not expect us to spend much political capital on something that is not included in the agreement to establish the coalition government,” Yamaguchi said, referring to the coalition agreement signed after the 2012 Lower House election, which saw the LDP return to power.

The panel’s report is likely to set the conditions under which Japan would be able to use collective self-defense. Under the expected criteria, Japan would defend allies if taking no action would pose a serious threat to national security, and the prime minister would make the decision on whether Japan should take action, with Japan exercising the right only when the countries under attack specifically request Japan’s support.

The decision to exercise the right would also require the Diet’s approval, and Japan would need to gain permission from other nations for the Self Defense Forces to traverse their territories.

The report is also expected to present potential scenarios for the use of collective self-defense, such as mine-sweeping operations in non-Japanese waters, or escorting U.S. vessels or aircraft engaged in rescuing Japanese nationals under the contingencies on the Korean Peninsula, operations that Japan cannot conduct under the current Constitution