• Kyodo

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The deputy chiefs of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its minor coalition partner, Komeito, began discussing security-related legislation on Saturday, including on Japan exercising the right to collective self-defense.

LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura and his Komeito counterpart, Kazuo Kitagawa, will focus on how much to expand the scope of Self-Defense Forces operations based on an interim report on revising Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.

The LDP and Komeito remain apart on several key issues, however for instance on dispatching the SDF on minesweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. The interim report aims to broaden the scope of cooperation between the Japanese and U.S. militaries by scrapping current geographical limits.

The ruling parties are seen accelerating the negotiations, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration intends to present related legislation to the Diet after nationwide local elections in April.

In a landmark decision in July, Abe’s Cabinet reinterpreted the war-renouncing Constitution to enable Japan to exercise collective self-defense and send the SDF to assist allies under armed attack.

Accordingly, the Abe administration plans to revise over 10 related laws, including one on U.N. peacekeeping operations and another stipulating the scope of SDF activities. New Defense Minister Gen Nakatani is looking to enact a permanent law on expanding SDF operations overseas, while Komeito remains reluctant.

The talks between Komura and Kitagawa will also focus on how to interpret three conditions for exercising collective defense. Under one of the conditions, Japan would be allowed to use military force if “the country’s existence is threatened and there are clear dangers” of an armed attack on it — or on “nations with close ties” to Japan — that imperils the people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Abe is of the opinion that, in the absence of a cease-fire, SDF minesweeping operations in the Middle East could meet these three conditions. However, Komeito is digging its heels in and seeking to interpret the conditions far more strictly.

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