A Lower House special committee approved three controversial bills Monday to implement the updated Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, which will enable Japan to provide more military support to U.S. forces.
Approval for the bills will be put for a full house vote at the Lower House plenary session today.
Now that the Liberal Democratic Party-Liberal Party coalition has won support from New Komeito, the second largest opposition party, the bills are certain to clear the Lower House today, prior to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton, and the Upper House within the current Diet session through mid-June.
In a majority voting that came after a total of 90 hours of debate at the special committee, the bills were approved with members of the LDP, Liberal Party and opposition New Komeito standing up to show their support.
The Social Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party, which demanded that the bills be scrapped and therefore have been left out during amendment talks on the bills by other parties, held up their prepared pieces of papers reading “objection” in a show of their strong opposition to the bills.
The guidelines bills, which have gone through a series of amendments, are designed to implement the new bilateral guidelines Japan and the U.S. governments agreed to in 1997. The new guidelines are designed to secure Japan’s greater logistic support for U.S. forces and to enable the Self-Defense Forces to conduct search-and-rescue operations and ship inspections in the event of emergencies near Japan.
The original bills aimed to give legal backing to the 1997 agreement were submitted to the Diet in April 1998 by the LDP, and the Lower House began discussing them early this year.
After days of closed talks at the Diet and Tokyo hotels, top leaders of the LDP, Liberal Party and New Komeito struck a compromise Sunday night to put off the debate on the highly contentious issue of ship inspections.
Following the compromise, the three parties submitted to the Monday session a revised bill, which was drawn up overnight, in which the issue of ship inspection was excluded.
The parties’ leaders say that they will draw up a separate legislation for ship inspections later, hopefully by the time the current Diet session ends in June.
DPJ leader Naoto Kan views such LDP-brokered compromise deal as a mere attempt to please Washington, not its people.
“The process (of striking the compromise) was made in an effort to let the prime minister take a souvenir to the Unites States. And the intentions of the Japanese people are being ignored,” said Kan.
The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, opposed the compromised bill and submitted an original one to the Monday’s session, demanding that the Diet approve basic SDF operational plans should an emergency occur near Japan. The DPJ bill was voted down.
Till the final day of committee debate, government leaders maintained their stance of not providing clear geographic explanation concerning the legislation.
Asked to define “areas surrounding Japan” in which the SDF can engage in logistic and other support under the guidelines legislation, Defense Agency director general Hosei Norota said before the committee, “Such areas are the areas where emergencies can happen.”