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The government is expected to submit a bill to the Diet this legislative session on upgrading the Defense Agency to ministry status, political sources said Saturday.

The Cabinet plans to move on the bill after receiving the OK from the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito in early June, when the junior coalition partner is expected to finalize its approval despite opposition from some of its ranks, the sources said.

But because time the Diet session is coming up fast on its June 18 end, the governing coalition is likely to seek holding the bill over for an extraordinary session that will likely be held this fall, the sources said.

Komeito is backed by Japan’s largest lay Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai. The party’s leaders previously planned to approve the bill on condition that the ministry and the Self-Defense Forces would emphasize international contributions.

But it later suspended interparty discussion after revelations that officials of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, an arm of the agency, had helped contractors rig bids for its projects.

The bill aims to upgrade the agency to a ministry and place international cooperation activities as its primary operation.

Komeito softened its attitude after the government worked out measures for preventing a recurrence of such practices, senior party sources said.

The party hopes the Diet will pass the bill this year, fretting that prolonged deliberations might negatively affect next year’s House of Councilors election.

The bill will “require a long time for deliberations. If we fail to submit it during the current session, we might face difficulty passing it even in an extraordinary session in this fall,” a senior party source said.

A rare opportunity

The Associated Press

The planned reshuffling of U.S. troops in Japan will be a chance for both sides to boost their defensive capabilities, the defense chief said Saturday.

Speaking at a government-hosted symposium in Tokyo, Defense Agency chief Fukushiro Nukaga said the Washington-Tokyo plan will enable Japan to better handle security issues in an unstable region.

“We must take the restructuring of U.S. troops as a good opportunity to rethink Japan’s own defensive strategy,” Nukaga said.