• Kyodo News

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A government panel set up to examine Japan’s right to collective defense is dominated by members critical of the current official interpretation of the Constitution that says Japan is banned from coming to the aid of an ally under attack, it was learned Saturday.

Twelve of the 13 members, including panel chief Shunji Yanai, a former ambassador to the United States, have publicly expressed criticism of the interpretation or called for a reinterpretation in their statements in the Diet and in publications.

Kyodo News did not find any public statements indicating where the 13th member, Shinya Murase, a professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University, stands on the issue.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he “gathered experts with deep insight from various fields” when announcing the establishment of the panel April 25.

But the composition of the membership suggests that the panel’s findings may be a foregone conclusion in line with Abe’s stance, which favors allowing Japan to come to the aid of an ally — namely the United States — when it is under attack.

The government has said that Japan inherently holds the right to collective defense under international law but is prohibited from exercising it because of the pacifist Constitution.

Yanai has publicly revealed his view of the current government interpretation at least once, in an article in the July 13, 2004, issue of the now-defunct World Affairs Weekly published by Jiji Press.

Considering what would happen if a U.S. ship were attacked in waters near Japan, Yanai said, “If (Japan’s) Self-Defense Forces come to aid in such a situation, it may well be called a violation of the Constitution. It is unreasonable.”

The panel, which will hold its first meeting May 18, is aiming to reach a conclusion on the issue this fall.

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