The government still maintains its interpretation of the Constitution barring Japan from engaging in collective defense, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Tuesday, rebutting an earlier remark by Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa.

Ozawa, appearing on television programs Sunday, said he reached an agreement with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi last week that the Self-Defense Forces can take part in armed operations abroad led by the United Nations if the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution approving such operations.

Ozawa said that the agreement changes the government’s previous interpretation of the Constitution.

At a regular news conference, Nonaka said that Obuchi only agreed in principle with the Liberal Party’s policy proposals, adding that the two parties have not yet discussed specific items in detail. “At the moment, the government has no intention of changing its interpretation of the Constitution, and there are still divergent opinions over Japan’s participation in U.N. operations,” Nonaka said.

Last Thursday, Obuchi, also president of the Liberal Democratic Party, agreed with Ozawa that their parties should form a governing coalition before the regular Diet session convenes in January.

As part of the accord, Obuchi and Ozawa agreed that Japan will not use its military forces unless it is attacked by other countries, and that the nation will participate in U.N. “peace activities” only if a resolution asking for its support is approved by the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. General Assembly.

Nonaka’s comment is the latest indication that more hurdles need to be cleared before the LDP can finalize its coalition deal with the Liberal Party.

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