• Kyodo

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In a blow to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s security reform bills, two former heads of the government bureau responsible for interpreting the pacifist Constitution criticized the proposed legislation Monday — with one slamming them as unconstitutional.

The criticism by two former officials who once oversaw national legislation and provided legal advice to the Cabinet could prove a headache for the administration after noted constitutional scholars already raised doubts in the Diet in early June about the constitutionality of Abe’s flagship bills.

Testifying before a special Diet committee, Reiichi Miyazaki, who headed the Cabinet Legislation Bureau from 2006 to 2010, called for the bills to be scrapped, saying that exercising the right to collective self-defense would “go against (the Constitution’s war-renouncing) Article 9.”

Miyazaki’s predecessor, Masahiro Sakata, who served from 2004, took issue with Abe’s argument that the Self-Defense Forces could be dispatched for mine-sweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.

Such operations “clearly deviate from the government’s existing view (on national security),” Sakata told the Lower House panel on security legislation. “We can never say it is a limited (use of the right to collective self-defense)” as claimed by the administration.

The bills would greatly expand the scope of SDF operations overseas, and enable Japan to defend allies under armed attack — even when the country itself is not being attacked — under the principle of collective self-defense.

The Abe Cabinet decided last July to reinterpret the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense under certain conditions.

Previous governments had maintained that Japan is allowed to exercise the “minimum” level of self-defense, which does not include collective self-defense. This view was adopted in 1972 in the form of a government statement.

Miyazaki said reinterpreting the Constitution would “destroy legal stability” in the country. He compared using the 1972 statement as a basis for allowing the right to collective self-defense to someone forcing another to believe black is white.

Both Miyazaki and Sakata were called to speak to the committee on the recommendation of the Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties.

During the session, experts recommended by the ruling camp defended the administration’s push, including constitutional scholar and Komazawa University professor emeritus Osamu Nishi, who said limited use of collective self-defense is “clearly within the scope allowed under the Constitution.”

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