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The LDP-Liberal Party coalition on Wednesday proposed a special Diet committee to discuss bills covering the updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.

But officials from the Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party were cool to the proposal, dimming the alliance’s hopes of launching the deliberations as soon as the fiscal 1999 budget clears the Lower House, possibly by the middle of this month.

The bills would expand the scope of Self-Defense Forces support for the U.S. military to include emergencies in the vaguely defined “areas surrounding Japan.”

At a meeting of senior officials in charge of Diet affairs from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the DPJ, New Komeito and the SDP, LDP Diet Affairs Committee chief Makoto Koga told his counterparts that the proposed bills should be debated at a special committee so the parties can concentrate on the issue.

He also said the LDP aims to get the fiscal 1999 budget approved by the Lower House by Feb. 17, and asked for cooperation to this end. However, the opposition camp stressed it is still too early to discuss the timetable for budget approval by the Lower House, saying more time is necessary to debate the budget, considering the current economic slump.

An SDP official also argued more debate is needed on measures to tackle the nation’s serious unemployment situation.

Reflecting opinions of Socialist-leaning lawmakers within their parties, the SDP and DPJ have been very cautious about an early passage of the guidelines bills, insisting that the legislation be debated by regular standing committees.

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