Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa reiterated on Wednesday that the government should clarify its stance on interpreting Self-Defense Forces’ participation in United Nations military peacekeeping operations, as it pertains to the Constitution.

The Japanese government has traditionally barred the SDF from joining U.N. combat operations, based on the 1947 Constitution and the 1954 SDF Law, which rules out any participation in collective defense.

Interpreting how the Constitution applies to SDF participation overseas is one of the focal points between Ozawa’s party and Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party in their talks to form a coalition government.

At a regular news conference, Ozawa stressed that collective defense and participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations are different issues. “I have never said that Japan should change its view of barring collective defense,” he said.

Citing a police officer’s duty to maintain security in society as one example, Ozawa pointed out how it differs with people collectively trying to exercise self-defense. “It is wrong for the government to consider U.N. peace activities that aim to maintain peace and order in the international society as an extension of the right of self-defense that each sovereign state holds,” Ozawa said.

He also reiterated that the Liberal Party will not support government-proposed bills to implement revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines unless the government makes clear on what grounds the state can support such U.S. military operations.

When the Persian Gulf crisis broke out in 1990, the government clearly stated that logistical support can be regarded as part of a military action, Ozawa said. “The government has not changed its interpretation of the Constitution since then. Why will Japan be able to support the U.S. forces in case of (an emergency in) areas surrounding the nation under the new guidelines?” he questioned.

Commenting on an upcoming meeting with Obuchi expected next week, Ozawa indicated he will continue to urge Obuchi to cut the number of Cabinet ministers to 17 as agreed last month at the top leaders’ meeting. “I believe that it will be implemented as promised,” he said, brushing aside speculation that Ozawa may compromise with the LDP in an effort to establish a coalition government.

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