The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito agreed in principle Tuesday to make Diet approval a precondition “without exception” for every Self-Defense Forces deployment overseas intended to provide logistic support to foreign militaries.
The move is a concession to Komeito, whose approval is needed to pass a package of state-sponsored security bills aimed at allowing the SDF to handle new types of missions overseas as part of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “proactive pacifism.” A final agreement could come before the new Japan-U.S. defense guidelines are released on April 27.
LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura told reporters he wants the coalition to reach a deal — and have the wording of the bills sorted — by May 11.
Komeito welcomed the development.
“We have called for advance Diet approval from the beginning,” Komeito deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa told reporters after the talks. “Our request . . . was accepted.”
A proposal drafted by Komura and Kitagawa declares that when the prime minister seeks Diet approval for sending troops overseas, both chambers will aim to vote on it within seven days of the request.
The proposal also mandates a second vote if a mission lasts longer than two years, though these can continue automatically if the Diet is not sitting or if the Lower House has been dissolved.
In this case, it will seek Diet approval retroactively.
The LDP pushed for room to grant exceptions to the Diet approval requirement, but Buddhist-backed Komeito countered that a check is needed to prevent reckless deployments.
Komeito asked the government to draft a list of scenarios in which retroactive Diet approval would be needed, but received no satisfactory response. Therefore, Komeito determined that entertaining exceptions was unnecessary.
The government plans to submit security-related bills to the Diet before it closes on June 24.
The Abe administration stirred public concern last summer when it began shifting the nation’s pacifist stance on defense by altering the government’s interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution to permit the use of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack even when Japan itself is not being targeted.
Abe has argued the SDF should be given large roles in defending the lives of Japanese overseas by removing strict legal restrictions on its operations. His efforts have raised concern among pacifists in Japan.
He told the Upper House Budget Committee in February that such changes were important in light of the beheading of two Japanese by Islamic State extremists earlier this year. He said it was his duty to protect the lives of Japanese worldwide, describing himself as the “chief executive” of that assignment.
However, Abe said Japan will not join the coalition conducting airstrikes on Islamic State targets, nor would it aid the effort with logistics support.
Information from Kyodo added