National / Politics

In gaffe, Abe refers to SDF as 'military'

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue or just a simple mistake, but despite Japan’s official view that the Self-Defense Forces’ legal nature makes it different from the militaries of other nations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last Friday called the SDF “our military.”

What has been widely perceived as a gaffe came during a session of the Upper House Budget Committee, when Abe was speaking about the SDF’s increased frequency of joint training with other countries in recent years.

“It has yielded significant results to increase transparency of our military,” Abe told the committee, answering a question posed by Yuichi Mayama, a member of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party).

Without correcting himself, Abe continued to answer questions during the session.

Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates that “land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential will never be maintained.”

Due to the charter, the government has maintained the view that the SDF is a “necessary minimum” for defending Japan and that it is not a military — despite its might as one of the world’s best-equipped contemporary armed forces and the size of the country’s defense budget. Under the Constitution, the SDF is allowed only the minimum use of force to defend the country.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants to recast the SDF as a “national defense force,” or kokubogun, according to its draft of a revised Constitution released in 2012.

Abe made another gaffe last Wednesday, saying during an Upper House session that “user fees” for the prime minister’s office’s Facebook account are paid for by the government while he pays for his own account, revealing his lack of basic knowledge about social networking services that carry no fees.