• Kyodo

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Defense Minister Gen Nakatani voiced opposition just two years ago to reinterpreting the Constitution in order to end Japan’s ban on helping an allied nation defend itself, contradicting the Abe administration’s position.

In the August 2013 edition of the journal New Leader, Nakatani, then a deputy secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said he did not want to “deceive” people with “interpretation techniques” and that the Constitution should be amended before allowing the country to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

“As I have said when I was a Cabinet member that ‘Japan cannot exercise the right to collective self-defense,’ I cannot say the country ‘can do that after all,’ ” he said in a dialogue with a nonfiction writer.

He also wrote in his book “Migi Demo Hidari Demo Nai Seiji” (“Politics That Is Not Right Nor Left”), published in 2007, that “the credibility of the Constitution could be called into question” if the range of the official interpretation of Article 9 were to be expanded.

While Nakatani said last week that his views have since shifted, his older remarks could come back to haunt him and the Abe administration.

Nakatani is now overseeing the administration’s drive to get two bills through the Diet that are aimed at allowing the exercise of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of allies under armed attack even when Japan itself is not attacked.

Abe’s Cabinet last July reinterpreted Article 9, which bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, as allowing Japan to engage in collective self-defense despite previous governments always taking the opposite approach.

Nakatani served as chief of the Defense Agency, which is now the Defense Ministry, from April 2001 to September 2002.

Controversy persists over the security bills, with all three experts called to speak before a Diet committee Thursday labeling them as “unconstitutional.”

Asked during a parliamentary committee meeting Friday about his past remarks, Nakatani said he has come to view exercising the right to collective self-defense as being “within the range of the Constitution” as long as the purpose of exercising that right is to defend Japan.

The security bills set conditions for exercising the right. They state that the right can be utilized when an armed attack against a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan occurs and as a result threatens Japan’s survival.