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LDP seeks defense deal by Friday

June 22 approval not in cards unless ruling parties can reach agreement this week

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party indicated Tuesday the Cabinet won’t be able to approve a statement allowing collective self-defense by the June 22 end of the Diet session, unless the two ruling parties strike an agreement by Friday.

“In order for the Cabinet to approve a constitutional reinterpretation allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense during this Diet session, we have to show a draft at a meeting (between the LDP and New Komeito) on Friday,” said Masahiko Komura, who is chairing the defense talks with the LDP’s junior partner. “I intend to work with New Komeito to avoid any clash with them.”

Meanwhile, New Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa pushed back against the rush for Cabinet approval, saying more time is needed to build a solid party consensus on collective self-defense.

Backed by the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, New Komeito has been opposed to reinterpreting the Constitution so that Japan can defend its allies even when it’s not under attack.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed Komura later on Tuesday to keep working with New Komeito so that his Cabinet can authorize the notion of collective self-defense by the end of this Diet session. The draft is likely to say that the right is allowed under international law and Japan will “study” how to exercise it.

The talks between the LDP and New Komeito on revamping national defense strategies are based on 16 hypothetical security scenarios.

Abe will have a tough time meeting the deadline, as any agreement by the LDP and New Komeito negotiators will have to be approved by each party before the Cabinet will act. The coalition started discussing the most contentious scenarios on Tuesday. These have the potential to require a reinterpretation of war-renouncing Article 9, which until now has been sacrosanct.

“The coalition talks have not even discussed all the scenarios yet. I hope the talks will be sufficiently thorough,” New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi said.

During Tuesday’s talks, the fifth such session, Komura admitted the two sides remain far apart. The administration argued Japan cannot tackle the eight toughest security scenarios without exercising the right to collective self-defense. But New Komeito countered that Japan can help defend U.S. vessels in nearby waters without invoking the right because it can be assumed that in such a situation Japan would also deem itself under attack.