New Komeito mulls concession in collective defense debate


New Komeito plans to make a concession and tolerate an interpretive legalization of collective self-defense, but only in some cases, party sources said Thursday.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s junior partner in the ruling coalition will discuss how the government should change its interpretation of the Constitution based on a government view established in 1972 on Japan’s defensive rights, the sources said. What sparked the change is unclear.

“Abenomics” aside, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been on a crusade to reinterpret the Constitution for years. He wants Japan to be able to legally exercise the U.N. right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack, to help support the United States, Japan’s top ally.

Since New Komeito will likely need time to reach a consensus, the Cabinet’s decision on proceeding with reinterpretation will likely have to wait until after June 22, when the Diet closes for the summer. Abe has said that no extraordinary Diet session will be held strictly for collective defense.

According to the 1972 government view, Japan is banned from engaging in collective self-defense under war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution but could take self-defensive measures if the Japanese right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is about to be undermined.

This would act as a brake on attempts to exceed the range of scenarios in which collective self-defense should be permitted, sources in New Komeito said. The party apparently believes that applying this condition will allow collective defense to be limited to certain situations.

Many in the party and its huge lay Buddhist support group, Soka Gakkai, oppose changing the mere interpretation of the Constitution, rather than a formal referendum and amendment, to legalize the use of something as risky as collective self-defense.

Friday is a considered a deadline for the Cabinet to make a decision on the issue because June 20 is the Diet’s final working day before closing for the summer, although Abe has said he is in no rush.

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