A panel of the Liberal Democratic Party called Friday for a change in government’s interpretation of the Constitution so that Japan can engage in collective defense to reinforce its alliance with the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.
The defense affairs division of the LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council, chaired by Upper House member Tomoharu Yoda, made the recommendation in a report wrapping up its studies conducted since last month.
Among the topics of discussion by the panel members was a U.S. bipartisan report compiled last fall by security experts, including Richard Armitage, now nominee for deputy secretary of state. The Armitage report says, “Japan’s prohibition against collective defense is a constraint on alliance cooperation.”
Japan maintains that although the nation holds the right to collective defense as a sovereign state, exercising the right goes beyond the boundary of minimum self-defense that it interprets the war-renouncing Constitution to allow.
The LDP report said Japan is allowed to exercise the right to collective defense as long as international laws allow a sovereign nation to do so.
The ban on collective defense could hamper Japan’s efforts to make the Japan-U.S. alliance credible and may reduce its deterrence power, the panel said, adding that it urges “the government to alter its conventional interpretation (of the Constitution).”
Any criticism that Japan could automatically be drawn into warfare involving the U.S. is irrelevant, because Japan will make its own judgment when to exercise the right to collective defense on a case-by-case basis in light of its national interests, the report says.
The report adds that the LDP will seek establishment of new legislation such as “basic laws on national security,” which will clearly define how far Japan can go in joining collective defense arrangements as well as United Nations-centered collective security.
Senior LDP leaders, including former Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka, have recently been suggesting that Japan should engage in collective defense under certain conditions. But it is far from clear if such arguments will win the support of the government.
Defense Agency Director General Toshitsugu Saito indicated that the exercise of collective defense is an issue that will require constitutional amendment and cannot be realized by simply altering the government’s interpretation of the Constitution.
“Besides (revising the Constitution), when we think of Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, I believe we have more ways of cooperation outside of collective defense,” he told the day’s regular news conference.