The Abe administration gave some ground Tuesday to New Komeito in the ninth round of the coalition defense talks, offering tougher conditions before Japan would be allowed to exercise the long-prohibited right to collective self-defense.
Debate between the ruling coalition partners has focused on three conditions for Japan to resort to the use of force initially put forward by Masahiko Komura, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to include these criteria in the statement of authorization his Cabinet is going to approve.
Komura’s original proposal said “Japan can wage military action when an attack on other country is feared to threaten the basis of Japan . . . there is no appropriate way to repeal these threats and protect those rights, and the action should remain within a minimum necessary scope.”
New Komeito objected, saying wording such as “another country” and “is feared to” would unduly expand the scope of possible Self-Defense Forces’ operations.
The draft presented by the administration Tuesday instead says Japan can take military action when an attack on “a country with a close relationship with Japan” would “clearly cast a danger” to Japan.
The draft also changes the second condition by saying Japan can resort to force when there is no other way to repeal those threats, “to sustain the basis of the country, and protect Japanese citizens.”
New Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa praised the changes, saying they reflect the party’s concerns.
But New Komeito, which is backed by the lay Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, suggested that the statement should also say Japan can handle most of the situations illustrated in 16 hypothetical security scenarios without exercising the right to collective self-defense.
The wording of the draft highlights the face-saving attempt by the coalition to avoid saying clearly that Japan will exercise the right to collective self-defense.
“We are not talking about how to defend other countries, but how to self-defend,” Kitagawa said after the meeting.
The concession by the administration also underscores Abe’s strong desire to press ahead with the highly contentious issue. He reportedly wants his Cabinet to sign off on the authorizing statement next Tuesday.
New Komeito, however, feels it will be difficult to reach an agreement that soon, as the administration won’t present the final version until Friday.
Abe’s government has also toned down its demands by excluding collective security military operations in the draft. Abe has said that Japan would not take military action as part of a coalition force.
But Komura said last week the draft statement should include such an option, fearing Japan might be seen as shying away from any potential international mine-sweeping operation in the Strait of Hormuz, for example.
Under international law, the removal of mines is considered a use of force. Japan has only conducted such operations once a cease-fire agreement has been reached.