National / Politics

Japan, U.S. to release interim report on defense guidelines next week

Kyodo

Japan and the United States plan to release an interim report on a planned revision of bilateral defense cooperation guidelines next Wednesday after their senior officials meet in Tokyo to finalize it, a Japanese government source said on Thursday.

The meeting of director general-level officials comes after Tokyo and Washington decided to delay the release planned for late September and spend more time on its wording.

While maintaining Japan’s “exclusively defense-oriented” policy under the bilateral security alliance, the upcoming report is expected to include some new scenarios such as Japan intercepting ballistic missiles and defending U.S. ships in international waters. But details still need to be worked out, according to the source.

Following a controversial Cabinet decision in July to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to enable the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been aiming to update the defense cooperation guidelines and prepare domestic legislation to accommodate the major postwar security policy change at the same time.

But Abe has decided to wait until next year to submit bills to revise existing laws to enable the Self-Defense Forces to come to the aid of an ally under armed attack, given that the issue has proven unpopular with the public.

Japan and the United States agreed last October to revise the guidelines, which specify the roles of the SDF and the U.S. military, in the face of an assertive China and North Korea’s missile and nuclear threat. The guidelines were last revised in 1997.