National / Politics

Two legal experts defend constitutionality of contentious security bills

Kyodo

Two legal experts on Friday argued that the government’s security bills are constitutional, with one saying the number of scholars supporting the legislation or not is irrelevant to its constitutionality.

The bills are “clearly within the allowable range” of the war-renouncing Constitution because they would only allow Japan to use the right of collective self-defense “to a limited extent,” said Osamu Nishi, professor emeritus at Komazawa University.

The government’s push to enact the security legislation follows its reinterpretation of the Constitution’s Article 9, which bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes. Previous governments interpreted the provision as banning the nation from exercising the right to collective self-defense.

Nishi said the conventional government interpretation “has been odd.” It has not permitted the use of the right to collective self-defense, while acknowledging the right to use force in defense against aggression, even though these two rights are “nondivisible.”

Nishi also said the essence of the bills is “defending our own country with deterrent effects.”

Meanwhile, Akira Momochi said collective self-defense, which will allow Tokyo to use force to defend allies under armed attack even when Japan itself is not attacked, is an “inherent right” states have under international law.

Momochi, a professor at Nihon University, also said the bills — which restrict the use of collective self-defense to cases in which Japan’s survival is threatened — are consistent with past government statements that have recognized that Tokyo can use the minimum amount of force needed to defend itself.

The debate over collective self-defense intensified after all three constitutional experts called to speak before the Lower House Commission on the Constitution on June 4 said that the bills violate the Constitution. Those professors included one who was recommended by the Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling coalition.

Some experts have claimed that few constitutional scholars would say the bills are constitutional. Nishi said the number was irrelevant.

“Whether a theory is right or wrong does not depend on the number of people (supporting it),” Nishi said.

The two experts urged the government to take more steps to better explain to the public the need for the reforms, with Nishi saying that the government should be able to win public consent if it explains the “essence of the bills.”

“The government should tell the public that we have to create a stronger Japan-U.S. alliance through the introduction of this legislation in the face of China’s military threats,” Momochi said.

The security bills being deliberated in the Diet set certain conditions for the exercise of collective self-defense, including that the right can be exercised when a foreign country with close ties to Japan is attacked and, as a result, Japan’s survival is threatened.

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