Delivering a key policy speech at the Diet, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his determination Thursday to push for economic reforms but avoided touching the most controversial issue expected at this year’s ordinary Diet session: security bills to expand the scope of Self-Defense Forces missions.
At the outset of the speech, Abe again pledged that Japan “will never give in to terrorism” despite the recent killings of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State group, and will continue to fulfill “Japan’s responsibility in the international community contending with terrorism.”
Tokyo will bolster monitoring at immigration offices to prevent potential terrorist attacks and secure the safety of Japanese at home and abroad, he said.
But Abe then switched to various economic reforms, praising his own decision to deprive the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu) of its legal power to audit and monitor management of about 700 agricultural cooperatives across the country.
He also pledged to increase the number of foreign tourists to Japan by relaxing visa restrictions and increasing arrival and departure slots for international flights by 40,000 a year at both Haneda airport and Narita airport by 2020.
The government plans to submit to the Diet a number of security-related bills, including those that would allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense, based on the Cabinet’s controversial decision to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution.
The bills are expected to be the biggest focus of debate with opposition parties during the ordinary Diet session that continues until mid-June.But in the speech, Abe didn’t explain details of those bills. His only statement was on the subject was: “I will promote enactment of security legislation so that (Japan) can seamlessly cope with every (possible) contingency.”
Neither did he elaborate on his long-held ambition to revise the Constitution, although the hostage crisis has raised public suspicions that Abe might be trying to take advantage of the crisis to push for that goal.
“Let’s deepen national discussion toward constitutional revision,” was his only comment on the issue.
Soon after the two Japanese hostages were killed by the Islamic State group, Abe met Hajime Funada, who heads the constitutional revision promotion team of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. According to Funada, Abe agreed with him that a national referendum on possible constitution revisions should be held after the summer 2016 Upper House election.
Funada told reporters such revisions should take place in stages, with the first to deal with such issues as environmental rights and giving special power to the prime minister in the event of an emergency.
Abe neither approved nor opposed Funada’s proposal on which part of the Constitution would be revised first.
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