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In break with Abe, LDP member insists 'collective security' OK

Mine-clearing in combat zones pushed for SDF

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

A member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Friday that Japan should be free to join collective security measures when engaging in mine-sweeping operations, apparently contradicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s position that Japan won’t take part in the kind of collective security arrangement that characterized the 1991 Gulf War.

At the eighth round of coalition talks Friday, an LDP participant suggested that the draft statement on collective self-defense, which is being drawn up in case the Cabinet agrees to approve it, allow Japan to join an international mine-sweeping operation where combat is taking place, even when the action becomes a collective security military operation under a U.N. resolution.

Previous governments have said the war-renouncing Constitution prohibits Japan from participating in collective-security operations, which is why Japan did not join the coalition that waged the 1991 Gulf War. Abe upheld that notion at a press conference on May 15, the day a private panel released a report he commissioned on security matters.

In the draft statement prepared Monday, the government included three new conditions under which Japan would be allowed to resort to force as suggested by LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura.

The conditions, all of which would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective defense under limited cases, include military attacks on other countries when such attacks pose an existential threat to Japan or threaten the people’s right to live or their right to pursue happiness. But the statement does not include the notion of collective security suggested by the LDP on Friday.

Komura said he hopes the government will present the final draft, including the notion of collective security, at the coalition’s next defense talks, scheduled for Tuesday.

“I would like to strike an agreement on the wording of the draft statement so that we can reflect that in the guidelines for Japan-U.S. security cooperation slated to be compiled by the end of this year,” Komura said.

New Komeito rejected the LDP’s intention by saying that such a proposal contradicts Abe’s statement that Japan would not resort to use of force in Gulf War-type collective-security combat situations. Clearing mines, under international law, is deemed use of force.

“It is rare that collective-security scenarios arise, and I do not understand why they brought it up,” said New Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa after the talks. “The important thing is to discuss fully in the coalition talks and within New Komeito what constitutional limits there are to self-defense.”

Mine-sweeping is a hypothetical security scenario that Abe has been pushing to include in Japan’s collective defense scenarios. He has denied accusations he is contradicting himself by doing so, asserting that the operations would aim only to protect Japanese and foreign commercial vessels.

“Mine-sweeping is in fact the use of force. But its purpose is to remove threats against commercial ships and its scope is very limited,” said Abe earlier this month when a Japanese Communist Party member alleged the contradiction.

“It is very different from the combat operations in the Gulf War or the Iraq War, such as air raids or launching attacks on enemy soil.”

Abe initially hopes the Cabinet will approve Japan’s exercising of the long-prohibited right to collective self-defense before the Diet officially closes on Sunday. But the prime minister and New Komeito chief Natsuo Yamaguchi on Thursday agreed to keep discussing the matter after the end of the session because that appeared impossible. Besides, Abe had already stated he was not in a hurry to get it done by the Diet closure date.