The Democratic Party of Japan on Friday tried to play down its president’s remarks in Washington about revising Article 9 of the Constitution.
Secretary General Hirohisa Fujii described Katsuya Okada’s remarks as nothing more than his personal views.
There is currently division within the main opposition party over expanding the role of the Self-Defense Forces overseas.
In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Okada said Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution should be revised to allow the military to exercise the use of force under the auspices of the United Nations.
His comments have added a new angle to the political debate over a constitutional amendment.
Okada said he is against allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective defense, a popular idea with proponents of a constitutional revision within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
He expressed concern over U.S. unilateralism and said letting Japan engage in collective defense would risk the nation getting involved in a unilateral military action launched by Washington.
“What is distinctly different between these two positions is whether you are going to allow Japan to join a U.S. military action when the U.S. decides to go it alone,” Okada said.
“My stance is that Japan should not use force unless the operation is backed by a U.N. Security Council resolution.”
His remarks, however, received a cool reception from colleagues back home.
“It is my understanding that President Okada voiced his own opinions,” he said.
Fujii said the party’s discussion on revising the Constitution had just kicked off with the compilation of an interim report in late June on the DPJ’s position.
He stressed that the DPJ has reached no agreement on whether Article 9 should be revised or how lawmakers might amend it.
The interim report says Japan should stick to the pacifism stipulated in Article 9, which prohibits the use of force as a means of resolving international disputes, and establish a U.N.-centered foreign policy.
The report says, “the use of force should be restricted as much as possible, even if Japan should join a U.N.-led action for collective defense.”
The DPJ was originally an alliance of groups with different ideological backgrounds, and some lawmakers in the party, particularly former Socialists, strongly oppose expanding the SDF’s role beyond Japan’s own defense.
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