Ruling bloc parties explore positions on defense


Staff Writer

The Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition kicked off formal discussions Friday on security legislation that would expand the range of missions the Self-Defense Forces could be deployed on.

The weekly talks are expected to be tough. Komeito is reluctant to loosen legal restrictions on military activities even as Abe’s LDP presses to develop a more flexible “proactive” fighting force.

During the first round of talks, the two parties tussled over whether to support the government’s plan to let Japanese troops defend warships and other assets of military allies other than the United States.

A document approved by the Cabinet on July 1 states that the SDF would be allowed to provide support to U.S. forces but does not mention any other country. That was the same month the Cabinet made the controversial decision to reinterpret the Constitution.

“The government wants to allow (aid to forces) other than the U.S. military. And there was opposition and agreement,” LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura said, after the hourlong discussion. “The point was whether it would contribute to the defense of our nation.”

The parties will resume discussion of the issue next time they meet, Komura said. The talks are scheduled to take place every Friday.

There was agreement, however, on the government’s proposal to allow officials in the future to discuss dispatching troops by teleconference, rather than having to meet in person at the Prime Minister’s office. This is expected to speed up the responses in the event of so-called gray zone situations, such as the landing of an armed group on Japanese territory without an outright military attack.

The ruling parties hope the Friday talks will lead to agreement by the end of March. The government plans to submit more than 10 security-related bills to the Diet session after the Golden Week holidays in May, which will follow the important nationwide local elections in April.

One proposal yet to be discussed is whether to create a “permanent law” providing for the dispatch of the SDF overseas. This would alleviate the need to convene Diet debates and create temporary legislation every time overseas missions are considered. Komeito opposes the move and sees no need to replace current protocol. Also planned are bills to legalize the use of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack, and to revise the SDF Law so troops can conduct rescue missions overseas.