National / Politics

Political veterans warn of crisis in security revamp

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

Four noted veteran politicians who once belonged to rival parties made a rare public appearance together at the Japan Press Club in Tokyo on Friday.

Their shared goal: to express opposition against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to enact the controversial security bills now under deliberation in the Diet.

The four are former Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Taku Yamasaki, former Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) leader Shizuka Kamei, former Democratic Party of Japan Deputy President Hirohisa Fujii and former New Party Sakigake leader Masayoshi Takemura.

“We share the concern that Japan is facing the biggest crisis since it lost (the war),” said Kamei, a 78-year-old Lower House veteran elected from Hiroshima Prefecture. The other three are no longer Diet members.

All four said Abe’s reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution to allow Japan to use collective self-defense could mark a departure from Japan’s postwar pacifism, which is centered on the exclusively defensive posture of the Self-Defense Forces.

The right to collective defense, as defined under the United Nations charter, allows a country to use force to come to the aid of an ally under attack, even if the country itself is not under attack.

Some of the security bills are designed to allow SDF units to engage in joint operations with the U.S. military based on Abe’s reinterpretation of war-renouncing Article 9.

“The exclusively defensive posture has been the main pillar of national defense policy. Now this is being smashed up,” said Takemura, 80, who was chief Cabinet secretary in 1993.

Yamasaki, 78, said most LDP members today do not have enough knowledge about security issues and have not been able to raise any opposition against Abe’s drive to change Japan’s security policies.

“Voters are interested in social security, economy and education issues. No (Diet members) consider they can gather voters by (addressing) security issues,” Yamasaki said.