The government still intends to submit a bill to make the Hinomaru the official flag and “Kimigayo” the national anthem during the current Diet session, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Wednesday, denying reports that the government had given up on the bill for this session.
The government, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liberal Party had earlier decided to try to get the bill passed during the current Diet session, which ends June 17, but opposing sentiments grew stronger Tuesday following remarks by some LDP officials.
Nonaka said it is truly regrettable that the issue has been reported in such a way, and stressed during a news conference, “As of today, the government’s policy to submit the Cabinet-sponsored bill to the current session has not changed.”
Nonaka also denied reports that the government plans to create a panel of scholars and experts so the issue can be fully discussed. “We don’t think that the (current) national symbol and anthem, which have already been recognized widely, will have to go through such a process,” he said.
Although the Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” have been serving as de facto national symbols, giving them official recognition is politically sensitive because of their close association with the Imperial system and wartime militarism.
On Tuesday, Makoto Koga, chairman of the LDP’s Diet Affairs Committee, said it would be difficult to submit the bill to the current Diet session. “Only 22 to 23 days are left,” he said. “Considering the importance of the bill and the fact that the issue should be discussed from various aspects, the schedule appears to be extremely tight.”
A decision by New Komeito, the second-largest opposition party, not to endorse the bill, is believed to have influenced the LDP’s stance.
The LDP and its junior coalition partner, the Liberal Party, which have been wooing New Komeito to join their bloc, had earlier expected to gain New Komeito’s support.
But the opposition party’s rank-and-file members rejected the idea, saying it is too sensitive to deal with quickly.
The government began studying legislation in early March to officially recognize the Hinomaru and “Kimigayo” as national symbols, following the suicide of a high school principal in Hiroshima Prefecture on Feb. 28. The principal killed himself apparently because of a disagreement with teachers over whether the national anthem would be sung at the school’s graduation ceremony.