It is looking increasingly likely that talks on new national security legislation needed for Japan to engage in collective self-defense won’t resume until spring or later due to the approach of nationwide local elections.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its partner, Komeito, initially planned to resume the talks before the opening of the Diet on Jan. 26.
While LDP lawmakers with defense interests are eager to resume talks quickly, Komeito is concerned discussions on national security could affect it prospects in the nationwide elections, which are scheduled for April.
In addition, the Prime Minister’s Office is apparently leery of impacting budget deliberations in the Diet.
The Abe Cabinet controversially decided last July to change the government’s long-held interpretation of the Constitution to sidestep the Article 9 ban on collective self-defense.
At a meeting last Tuesday, LDP deputy chief Masahiko Komura told a senior party official with defense interests that he wants to postpone the talks until spring, signaling that his priority is to enact the fiscal 2015 budget and delay the talks until after the April elections.
The two coalition parties remain apart over many security issues.
The LDP wants to allow the Self-Defense Forces to engage in mine-removal in the Persian Gulf by using the revamped legislation, whereas Komeito does not want to see SDF activities expanded substantially at all.
Disagreements also remain over a proposal to draft a permanent law to permit overseas dispatches of the SDF and over whether to allow Japanese troops in U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operations to rescue foreign troops and civilians in the same operation who come under armed attack in “remote locations.”
“The more the two parties discuss the matters, the more evident the gaps between them could become,” a government official said.
A senior Komeito official said: “It will be undesirable for Diet discussions to concentrate on security issues from the beginning of the regular session. Debates (on security) should start around spring.”
Given the circumstances, a plan is slowly emerging whereby Komura and Komeito deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa might work behind closed doors to draft an outline for the national security legislation.
But the move drew criticism at a meeting Tuesday among executives of the LDP’s defense division that was attended by Lower House lawmakers Shigeru Ishiba, Akinori Eto and Yasukazu Hamada, each of whom has served as defense minister. Some of the participants warned that the submission of the legislation to the Diet could be delayed unless the ruling bloc discussions start this month.
An LDP official, who has also served as defense minister and requested anonymity, said that leaving the decision to just Komura and Kitagawa could be “dictatorial,” stressing that details of the security legislation should be fixed through formal talks between the LDP and Komeito