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Security bills battle to reach climax this week

JIJI

The battle over the national security bills is set to come to a head in the Diet this week as the ruling bloc aims to pass the controversial legislation through the all-important Lower House.

Spearheaded by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, a vote on the bills is expected by a Lower House special committee Wednesday and the full chamber Thursday.

However, the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, may pass the administration-sponsored bills to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense through the committee without the presence of any other parties, sources familiar with the situation said.

If it does, Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) may boycott the committee vote, as it has requested more debate time, including on its counterproposals.

Votes should be held when the time is right, Abe told reporters during a visit to Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, on Saturday.

Asked whether the special committee will vote on the bills on Wednesday, LDP General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai said it may take place one or two days later.

More than 100 hours have been spent discussing the security bills at the special committee, far exceeding the 80 hours planned by the ruling camp.

On Monday, five experts invited to a hearing to speak on the bills, considered a prerequisite to the vote, expressed mixed views.

Former diplomat Yukio Okamoto, who was recommended by the ruling camp, said the major significance of the security legislation is that Japan would join a community of allied nations who help protect each other from enemies and the threat of violence.

However, Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei University, who was endorsed by the opposition camp, criticized the bills as violating the Constitution and deviating from its principle of exclusive defense.

Another expert endorsed by the ruling camp, Doshisha University President Koji Murata, dismissed the criticism by constitutional scholars at an earlier hearing.

“I believe most national security experts would respond positively to the bills,” said Murata, who is also professor of international politics at Doshisha. There are scholars other than constitutional scholars, he pointed out.

Ryuichi Ozawa, a professor of political science at Jikei University School of Medicine, called for the legislation to be immediately scrapped, saying it would be an “abdication of responsibility if politicians allowed such defective legislation to be enacted.”

Sota Kimura, an associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University, stressed that the use of force is acknowledged as the minimum necessary for individual self-defense.

Ozawa and Kimura were both recommended by the opposition camp.

The ruling parties will hold a second round of talks Tuesday with Ishin no To on proposed amendments to the bills to reflect its counterproposals.

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura has said there is a huge gap between what both parties had put forward.

As a result, and with the two sides struggling to find common ground, some ruling camp officials are calling for a vote by the committee without any amendment if the opposition party refuses to cooperate.