The Liberal Democratic Party and Liberal Party reached final agreement Wednesday on controversial security issues, eliminating the last remaining obstacle to the parties’ launch of a coalition government.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi is to reshuffle his Cabinet today, officially marking the start of the coalition. “We have cleared all preconditions of forming a coalition government,” Takeshi Noda, secretary general of the Liberal Party, told a press conference after a meeting of executives of both parties to confirm the outcome of a series of joint policy talks.

The two parties had been holding discussions to iron out policy differences since Nov. 19, when Obuchi, who also heads the LDP, and Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa agreed to form a coalition government before the regular Diet session begins next Tuesday.

According to their agreement on national security, decisions on security policy will be made by top-level party officials.

Concerning the Liberal Party’s demand for Japan’s more active participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations, the two sides agreed that Japan can provide support only when authorized by U.N. resolution and as long as participation is not tantamount to exercising the use of force.

Specifically, the Constitution bans the Self-Defense Forces from directly using force and delivering goods to areas where military activities are taking place.

The government will deal with other forms of participation on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they are within the framework of the Constitution, according to the agreement.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party dropped its demand for revising a set of bills aimed at implementing updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines and agreed to aim at having the bills passed by the Diet during its upcoming session.

But they will hold further talks to clarify their position on such issues as Japan’s provision of rear-area support to the U.S. military, including search-and-rescue operations as well as inspection of ships amid economic sanctions, it says.

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