Parties fail to reach accord before Diet recess

Komeito resistance forces Abe to put off self-defense issue

Kyodo, JIJI

The secretaries-general of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed Wednesday that Cabinet approval for exercising the right to collective self-defense is unlikely to come before the Sunday end of the Diet session.

Yoshihisa Inoue of New Komeito, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, said in a meeting with the LDP’s Shigeru Ishiba that more time is needed to build a consensus within his party on the controversial issue, party lawmakers said.

Ishiba replied that he will wait until New Komeito is ready, the lawmakers said.

Earlier in the meeting, Ishiba asked Inoue for New Komeito’s consent for Cabinet approval by the weekend close of the Diet session, which would pave the way for Cabinet approval. The coalition will now aim to secure Cabinet approval by early July.

Ishiba and Inoue said they will continue to work out a schedule for talks on changing the official interpretation of the Constitution to enable the Self-Defense Forces to come to the aid of Japan’s allies if under armed attack by exercising the right to collective self-defense.

“There will be no Cabinet decision without New Komeito’s consent,” Ishiba said after the meeting. “New Komeito has been discussing the matter with sincerity.”

The coalition’s junior partner, which is backed by the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, has recently shown signs of taking a softer line and approving the potential exercise of the right in a limited manner, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped up pressure last week on the LDP to gain New Komeito’s support.

The issue of whether Japan should defend allies under armed attack when it has not been targeted remains divisive. Many see it as a violation of the pacifist Constitution.

At issue is Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes and allows only the minimum level of self-defense.

New Komeito is particularly opposed to the wording of three new standards presented by LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura last week that stipulate Japan is allowed to exercise the right to self-defense when “it is feared” the lives of the Japanese people, their liberty, and their right to pursue happiness will be ruined by an armed attack on another country.

New Komeito says this would expand without limits the scope of the nation’s right to self-defense.

Some participants have also reacted negatively to the explicit reference to “collective self-defense” in the draft.

Amid concerns about security threats posed by China and North Korea, Abe is hoping to change the government’s traditional postwar interpretation and remove Japan’s long-standing ban in time for the planned revision by the end of the year to U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines, which define the role and responsibilities of the SDF and the U.S. military.