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LDP, New Komeito to start talks on collective self-defense next week

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

Masahiko Komura, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Wednesday he will try to strike an agreement on collective self-defense with junior coalition partner New Komeito so that the decision will be reflected in the Japan-U.S. defense guidelines being revised by the end of this year. Talks are expected to begin next week.

“It is absolutely necessary for the coalition to agree on this issue before Cabinet approval,” said Komura, who will be the LDP head of a coalition consultative body on the issue. “It will be difficult, but we will try to reach an agreement in time for the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.”

The discussions to sway a reluctant New Komeito will kick off next Tuesday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlines how the administration will revise Japan’s defense posture on Thursday, based on a report compiled by his hand-picked panel.

Abe is aiming to reverse the decades-old policy with Cabinet approval, rather than the full Diet, and allow Japan to exercise the right to aid an ally that comes under military attack.

The panel report due out Thursday is expected to limit the cases under which Japan can take a more proactive role in terms of collective self-defense and U.N.-authorized peacekeeping missions as well as the so-called gray zone scenarios — armed incidents that fall short of full-scale military attacks by sovereign nations.

Komura said the coalition discussions will first cover the gray zone scenarios, which are expected to be the first item in the report. New Komeito has said dealing with gray zone incidents is a more pressing question than what to do about collective self-defense, given China’s muscle-flexing over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

China and South Korea have claimed Abe is seeking to make Japan a military power. But Komura, who recently visited China as the head of a Diet friendship group, said there should be no reason for Beijing to oppose the new defense posture, because every country has the right to collective self-defense and Japan will exercise the right only when it is absolutely necessary.

“Saying the issue would impose a hindrance on the Japan-China relationship is an insult of China as I believe China will not say no to Japan’s decision to exercise the right under really limited cases,” he said.