National / Politics

New Abe Cabinet gets to work, promises faster security changes

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new Cabinet began work Thursday on the twin goals of boosting the economy and developing legislation to strengthen national security.

“We are determined to give continuous top priority to the economy and to implement economic policies more boldly and speedily,” Abe told a meeting of Keidanren, the nation’s main business lobby.

“We will carefully carry out our measures step by step, based on the revitalization of the Japanese economy and other basic policies indicated by the prime minister,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.

“The top priority for the new Cabinet is to promote ‘Abenomics’ so citizens feel an economic recovery,” said Natsuo Yamaguchi, who leads Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

The Cabinet is set to adopt a ¥3.5 trillion stimulus package Saturday to support the economy, which slipped into recession after contracting for two consecutive quarters after the April 1 consumption tax hike.

Abe formed the new Cabinet on Wednesday, reappointing all previous ministers but replacing the individual at the helm of the defense ministry. Gen Nakatani became Defense Minister.

“We will steadily develop national security legislation,” Nakatani told Self-Defense Force officers Thursday. The envisioned changes would reflect the Abe Cabinet’s earlier decision to reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise collective self-defense, or defend allies under armed attack even if Japan itself is not.

“I want us to be united in protecting the people’s lives and Japan’s territory, airspace and waters,” said Nakatani, who is expected to play a central role in gaining Diet approval of security-related bills next year.

Late Wednesday, Abe instructed Nakatani to create a legal framework to enable Japan to respond swiftly to security threats.

“Minister Nakatani has the experience and expertise after working for years in the field of security, and he is also familiar with SDF operations,” Abe told a televised news conference on Wednesday.

A powerful figure in the LDP, well-versed in defense and security policy, 57-year-old Nakatani played an integral part in the ruling parties’ talks on security before the government said in July that it would reinterpret the Constitution.

The government is expected to submit a slew of bills to the Diet next year to effect the change. Nakatani, who doubles as security legislation minister, is expected to face tough questioning from the opposition. He will also need secure support for the remodeling of security arrangements from a wary public.

At the Defense Ministry on Wednesday night, Nakatani expressed willingness to enact a law allowing the SDF to be deployed overseas.

“We need to define, in principle, what we can do in overseas operations,” he told a press conference. He noted that Japan has only one such law, covering United Nations peacekeeping operations.

His portfolio also includes accelerating work on a revised U.S.-Japan defense cooperation agreement, and pushing ahead with the controversial relocation of a key U.S. military base within Okinawa Prefecture. The defense guidelines have not been revised since 1997, and an earlier deadline this year for the new text has been pushed back to the first half of 2015.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5