The Abe administration presented a draft statement Tuesday that would effectively allow Japan to exercise the long-prohibited right to collective self-defense, reflecting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to have his Cabinet approve the change before the current Diet session ends Sunday.
Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Komura, who has been chairing ruling coalition talks on security policy, said the secretaries-general of the two governing parties will discuss the schedule for the Cabinet’s approval of the statement, but his New Komeito counterpart indicated they are unlikely to reach an agreement by the end of the Diet session.
“We have not even started party discussions on the draft. It would be hard to strike an agreement by Friday,” the last working day before the legislative session’s end, New Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa said after talks Tuesday, the seventh round since last month.
The draft statement is based on coalition discussions of 16 hypothetical security scenarios tabled by the administration. It covers how Japan can cope with the so-called gray-zone scenarios, which fall short of a full-fledged military attack, expand logistical support for allies by the Self-Defense Forces and ease limits on SDF use of weapons during peacekeeping operations.
On the contentious issue of collective self-defense, the statement characterizes the concept as actions permitted by war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, and its wording is borrowed from three new standards that would be needed for Japan to resort to force, which were presented by Komura last week.
But the draft says those actions can be deemed as collective self-defense under international law.
The statement also says Japan’s actions should take place under civilian control and require Diet approval.
The ambiguous wording reflects a face-saving game between the LDP and New Komeito. Even though New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi said the party would not desert the coalition camp over one policy issue, Komeito’s base in the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai is against the LDP push for collective self-defense.
New Komeito is especially concerned that Komura’s standards would not prevent the “over-exercising” of the right.
His proposal lists an armed attack on another country as justification for the use of force, when it “is feared” Japan’s existence is threatened and the Japanese people’s fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is violated.
One of the current three conditions under Article 9 allowing the use of force in self-defense says the threat to Japan should be urgent and the aggression unjust.
The two parties did not resolve during Tuesday’s talks whether to allow, as Abe wants, minesweeping operations in sea lanes where combat is taking place.
New Komeito insists Abe’s pursuit of this condition contradicts his statement that Japan will not engage in Gulf War-type collective military actions. Minesweeping where there is no cease-fire agreement is a combat operation, party officials said