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A government panel has proposed creating a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council. The main task of the new entity would be to work out long-range diplomatic and defense strategies as well as cope with emergencies not limited to defense. The success of the new body would depend on whether it could receive timely, relevant information from various government ministries and agencies and whether Cabinet ministers would readily implement decisions made by it.

The new entity would comprise the prime minister as chairperson, the chief Cabinet secretary, the foreign minister and the defense minister. It would be formed by streamlining the existing Security Council of Japan, now composed of the prime minister and eight Cabinet members.

The existing body only discusses key issues related to defense. The new body would discuss a wider range of topics in a flexible manner to make timely decisions. Members would meet at least twice a month. The government hopes to see the new body inaugurated in April 2008.

The special adviser to the prime minister on security affairs would become a permanent post, responsible for attending meetings of the new council’s members. Other Cabinet ministers would be asked to join the four members depending on the topics, which could include, for example, how to deal with an influenza pandemic or an energy crisis. The new council would have a secretariat office of 10 to 20 members that could include uniformed members of the Self-Defense Forces.

The report of the government panel says that the foreign, defense and other ministries would retain their current jurisdictions and powers. The government may face difficulty in demarcating the functions of the new security council and the existing ministries and agencies. The report also calls for an enactment of a law requiring the members and staff of the new council to exercise strict confidentiality. Such a law, however, should not restrict the news-gathering activities of reporters, nor expand the scope of secrets without limits.

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