China and South Korea have expressed concern over Thursday’s recommendations by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security panel for legalizing collective self-defense, saying they are watching developments vigilantly.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China has “full reasons to be highly vigilant about Japan’s true intentions and its future development” due to its neighbor’s violent past.
“We urge Japan to face up and reflect on its history, and respect the security concerns of regional countries,” Hua said at a daily press briefing.
She made the comments when asked about the security panel recommendations submitted to Abe, who is trying to change the government’s interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution, which prohibits the country from aiding allies under armed attack under Article 9, because holding a nationwide referendum to amend it is considered unfeasible.
The panel, headed by former Japanese Ambassador to the United States Shunji Yanai, made the proposal amid China’s increasingly assertive actions in the region and North Korea’s nuclear threats.
The change could result in Japan being dragged into a war.
Meanwhile, Seoul called on Tokyo to uphold the spirit of Japan’s pacifist Constitution and maintain transparency in discussing its defense and security policies.
“Our government reiterates once again that Japan’s discussions on defense and security policies should be held in such a way as to uphold the spirit of its pacifist Constitution and maintain transparency and also in a way to help preserve stability and peace in the region,” South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday.
“As for issues affecting the security on the Korean Peninsula and our national interests, not a single issue can be permitted without our request or agreement.”
The statement also called on Japan “to dispel suspicions and concerns held by neighboring countries in handling issues related to security.”
Abe’s efforts to let the Self-Defense Forces legally play a bigger role in international security have repeatedly been criticized by China and South Korea, both of which have been on the receiving end of Japanese military aggression.
But the U.S., Japan’s closest ally, welcomed Abe’s announcement that his government will reconsider the self-imposed ban on using collective self-defense.
“We welcome and support Japan’s debate over whether its constitution permits the exercise of its right to collective self-defense,” Marie Harf, a spokeswoman of the State Department, said Thursday.
Harf said the U.S. government appreciates Japan’s bid to change the defense policy in a manner that was “as transparent as possible” by sending its government officials to other countries to give explanations.
Abe told relevant officials in the government and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party to consider reinterpreting the Constitution so Japan can help its allies such as the United States, even when Japan does not come under direct attack.
A spokesman of the U.S. Defense Department also welcomed the development in Tokyo in a statement, saying the U.S. government is “confident that Japan will continue this tradition of respect for peace.”
U.S. President Barack Obama gave support to Japan’s move toward rethinking the ban on collective self-defense when he held talks with Abe in Tokyo in late April.
Protest in Tokyo
Protesters rallied around the prime minister’s office in Tokyo on Thursday evening to decry the government’s bid to end lift the self-imposed ban on collective self-defense.
According to the organizers, some 2,000 people participated in the rally to protest Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s effort to reinterpret the Constitution as a shortcut to bypassing war-renouncing Article 9.
Earlier in the day, a private advisory panel hand-picked by Abe had released its recommendations for doing so.
They shouted objections to the country’s envisioned strategy for exercising the right and demanded that Japan not undercut the pacifist Constitution, which has guided the nation’s diplomacy since Japan surrendered in 1945 to end World War II following the world’s first use of atomic weapons.
“I can never accept Japan engaging in war,” said Keiko Izawa, a 49-year-old housewife from the western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka. She slammed the Abe government’s plans as “absolute foul play.”
“Lifting the collective self-defense ban through changes in the constitutional interpretation is unacceptable,” said Shu Fukui, a 16-year-old high school student from Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward. “We may be sent to war.”