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Abe wants Cabinet post to lead Article 9 attack

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to create a new Cabinet minister post in charge of reworking Japan’s legal framework to remove the self-imposed ban on using collective self-defense, government sources said Wednesday.

The specially assigned minister may be named in late August, and will be tasked mainly with explaining the government’s stance on the controversial issue to the Diet.

Abe aims to secure Cabinet approval for lifting the ban and revising a number of laws during an extraordinary Diet session in the fall, in line with a major security policy change he is pushing, the sources said.

The new minister of the Cabinet Office will likely be appointed when Abe reshuffles his Cabinet and senior executives of his Liberal Democratic Party, a source said, adding that the foreign and defense ministers will not be viable candidates for the job.

Until the Cabinet approves changing the government’s interpretation of the pacifist Constitution to enable Japan to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will be responsible for explaining the government’s stance, the sources said.

Suga, the top government spokesman, is also responsible for security policy coordination and crisis management. The appointment of a new minister is designed to ease concerns among some government officials who argue he should not spend too much time on deliberations in the Diet, the sources said.

To overhaul Japan’s security policy, Abe has asked the ruling parties to discuss whether Japan should reinterpret the Constitution so the Self-Defense Forces can engage in collective self-defense.

The government’s current interpretation is that Japan has the right to collective self-defense under international law but cannot exercise it due to the limits imposed by Article 9 of the Constitution, which forbids the use of force to settle international disputes.

The ruling parties launched a full-fledged debate on the divisive issue this week, but the outlook for early agreement remains uncertain given that the LDP’s coalition partner New Komeito has not budged over its pacifist stance.

The government typically appoints special ministers to concentrate on important issues, such as the U.S. military presence in Okinawa Prefecture, deregulation and disaster prevention.

Last year, consumer affairs minister Masako Mori was appointed to double as special minister in charge of a controversial bill for a new secrecy law, which was pushed through the Diet despite concern that tighter state control of information would hurt the public’s right to know.

Japan has a total of nine ministers with multiple titles, including Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is also the finance minister.