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Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said actions taken under the revised guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation will not be interpreted as collective defense, which is banned by the Constitution.Identifying emergency situations that “have an important influence on Japan’s peace and security” as mentioned in the guidelines will be independently done by both the Japanese and the U.S. governments, Hashimoto said, denying that the guidelines go beyond the current Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.Hashimoto responded to claims by Chikara Sakaguchi a member of Shinshinto, the largest opposition party, that the guidelines are deliberately vague and not acceptable by the public and other parts of Asia. While the guidelines say Japan will conduct all actions within the limitations of its Constitution, which bars the use of force to stop an armed attack on a foreign country, it remains unclear about those actions in the event that emergencies occur in areas surrounding Japan.During search and rescue operations, for instance, Japan will cooperate “in Japanese territory and at sea surrounding Japan, as distinguished from areas where combat operations are being conducted” to avoid direct Self-Defense Forces’ engagement in battle outside Japan.Shinshinto’s Sakamoto expressed concern that it is difficult to define locations that are “distinguished from areas where combat operations are being conducted” and that activities such as minesweeping and inspecting unidentified ships can be interpreted by other countries as engaging in collective defense.In response to a proposal by Shigeru Ito, secretary general of the Social Democratic Party, that Japan should help make Asia a nonnuclear zone, Foreign Minister Keizo Obuchi said the idea is too difficult to implement because uncertainty still remains and the concept of an atomic deterrent is still effective.

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