Proposed Kibo no To policy criticizes Abe-backed security laws, but conservative members may balk

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

The leadership of Kibo no To (Party of Hope) on Friday proposed to rank-and-file members that the opposition party strongly criticize the controversial 2015 security laws pushed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a senior member and media reports said.

The new policy, proposed during a party meeting, was designed to promote cooperation with other opposition parties and strengthen the leadership of Kibo no To President Yuichiro Tamaki, according to the senior party member who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But according to some reports, the move threatened to split the party, which was first established by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who is widely believed to be a security hawk. She once argued that anyone who opposed the security laws should not be endorsed as a Kibo no To candidate in last October’s Lower House election.

The policy shift proposed by Tamaki is likely to further deepen the rift between hawkish party members and those calling for an alliance with liberal opposition forces, most notably the Democratic Party and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

The 2015 security laws are based on Abe’s controversial reinterpretation of the Constitution’s war-renouncing Article 9, which had long been seen as banning the use of collective self-defense — the right to attack a country that strikes an ally.

Abe’s government has eased this interpretation and now argues the country can come to the aid of an ally — presumably the United States — on three conditions: if Japan’s “survival” is considered to be at stake, there are no alternatives and the use of force would be kept to the minimum necessary.

But the wording of the three conditions are vague and are “based on arbitrary, expedient constitutional interpretation,” according to the proposed policy, the text of which was first reported by Jiji Press and later confirmed by The Japan Times. The policy says new rules for the country’s use of force should be drawn up based on “constitutionalism,” a key word for liberal lawmakers who call for a strict interpretation of Article 9. The policy pitch was thus widely seen as designed to promote parliamentary cooperation with the CDP and the DP.

Separately, Kyodo News reported Friday that Kibo no To leadership is considering urging Koike, now an adviser to the party, to renounce her membership in a bid to boost popularity with voters. The Japan Times could not independently confirm the report.

Kibo no To lawmakers could not reach a consensus on the proposed policy during the meeting and will discuss it further, the party member said. According to media reports, some conservative members who support tougher security policies now appear ready to leave the party.

During Friday’s meeting, several members reportedly proposed that the party should split into two. But no decision was reached, Kyodo News said.