In light of the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, the government should alter its interpretation of the Constitution and allow Japan to exercise the right of collective defense, according to a report compiled Thursday by an advisory panel to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

“The government’s interpretation of the Constitution, barring the country from exercising the right of collective defense, is an obstacle,” the report says.

It notes that many security experts believe Japan should change its interpretation to preserve the nation’s peace and security.

The panel, headed by University of Tokyo professor Shinichi Kitaoka, submitted the report to Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.

Touching on Japan’s vow that it will “not produce, not possess and not allow nuclear weapons into the country,” the report claims that the third principle is effectively violated by the port calls of U.S. ships carrying nuclear arms.

Rather than clinging to these principles, however, Japan should explicitly allow U.S. vessels of this kind to call at Japanese ports, given the situation in North Korea, the report says.

“If North Korea develops nuclear weapons at full scale, to what extent Japan should limit (U.S. arms in Japan as a deterrent against North Korea) will be a huge issue,” it states.

The panel was set up in August 2002 as part of Kawaguchi’s plans to reform the Foreign Ministry.

Kawaguchi was appointed foreign minister in February 2002.

Panel eyes UNSC seat

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Thursday asked a new advisory panel to discuss how Japan can win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

“The public is questioning whether the United Nations is functioning well after (the division) over Iraqi issues,” Kawaguchi said at the outset of the panel’s inaugural meeting.

“I wonder if it is good that Japan has no (permanent) seat on the Security Council even if it is shouldering a huge financial burden.”

The panel, headed by Yozo Yokota, special adviser to the rector of United Nations University, comprises 10 members from academia, business and nongovernmental organizations.

It will also discuss ways to increase the number of Japanese working for the United Nations as well as financial reforms of the world body.

The panel will hold a total of eight meetings before submitting a set of reform proposals to Kawaguchi.

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