National

Abe presses forward on collective defense

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The Abe administration proposed Friday amending the Self-Defense Forces Law to make it legal to exercise the right to collective self-defense, moving a step closer to the possibility that Japan will use military force even if it is not under direct attack.

The expected revision, presented during the fourth round of the ruling coalition’s security talks, would allow the SDF to use force overseas if a situation meets conditions under the reinterpretation of the Constitution approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet last July, such as if an attack poses a clear danger to Japan’s survival.

Possible scenarios include coming to the rescue of a U.S. ship under attack with Japanese on board, and mine-sweeping operations in international sea lanes.

During the talks, Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, showed “a certain degree” of understanding for the proposal, but asked the administration to clearly state in draft bills that such a use of force would be allowed only if “there is no other means to protect Japan’s existence and its citizens.”

Komeito, a Buddhist-backed pacifist party, also demanded that the administration make sure the public understands fully what the change would mean for Japan.

Under the current law, the SDF is allowed to use force only in the event of a direct armed attack on Japan or when there is a clear threat of such an attack.

Last year, the Cabinet decided to allow Japan to exercise collective self-defense if the attack poses a clear danger to Japan’s survival and the attack could fundamentally overturn Japanese citizens’ constitutional rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; there is no other way of repelling the attack; and the use of force is limited to the minimum extent necessary.

The ruling parties plan to reach a broad agreement on security legislation as early as March 20. But it will take much longer for them to reach a final agreement.

“We cannot reach a final agreement without seeing the draft bills,” Komeito Vice President Kazuo Kitagawa told reporters after the meeting.

The administration plans to draw up the bills after the ruling camp reaches a basic agreement. After that, the LDP and Komeito will reconvene.

The Abe administration hopes to submit more than 10 sets of bills to the Diet during the session ending June 24.