Japan and the United States are making arrangements to revise the two nations’ defense cooperation guidelines in late April before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned trip to the United States, sources knowledgeable about Japan-U.S. relations said on Wednesday.
The defense guidelines delineate the roles of the U.S. military and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces in joint operations. Their revision is expected to be decided at a meeting of the two countries’ foreign and defense ministers in Washington, the sources said.
The revised guidelines are expected to include a larger scope of action for the SDF, based on last year’s contentious decision to reinterpret the pacifist Constitution to enable the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, or defending allies under armed attack.
However, since the central government is delaying introducing legislation to create the legal framework for the constitutional reinterpretation, the revision of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines could take place before the submission of relevant bills to the Diet.
Opposition lawmakers are expected to criticize the move as hasty and disrespectful of the role of the Diet.
Tokyo has asked Washington to hold their “two-plus-two” talks in late April after local elections in Japan, and Washington has agreed to the revision before Abe’s trip to the United States, the sources said.
But depending on the schedule of Abe’s trip, the revision could be delayed to early May, they added.
The Abe administration had originally planned to have the security-related bills approved by the Cabinet for submission to the Diet by the end of April.
But a wider gulf than expected in views on the matter between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, has purportedly held up the introduction of the needed security legislation.
The bills are now expected to be approved by the Cabinet sometime after Golden Week from late April to early May.
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