What a person says, even if it is a fragmentary remark, can shed light on his or her innermost thoughts and basic attitudes on important issues. A series of recent remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe serve as a case in point.
During a session of the Upper House Budget Committee in late March, he was asked by a member of Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) about the Self-Defense Forces' joint exercises with armed forces of other countries. He replied that such drills greatly contribute to "raising the transparency of our armed forces," instead of "the Self-Defense Forces." He then quickly dropped the phrase "armed forces" and said that many countries appear to understand that the SDF is well-disciplined. But his use of the term contravened the government's traditional position that the SDF "is different from armed forces as understood under a common idea," as he himself stated during his first term as prime minister,
That stance derives from war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, which declares that Japan will never maintain "land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential" and that "the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized." Based on this principle, Japan has taken a "defense-only defense" posture, that is, the nation will act only when it is attacked, and with the minimum necessary force. The government has maintained that Japan cannot have "war potential" and therefore the SDF cannot possess offensive weapons such as aircraft carriers, heavy bombers and long-range missiles, and refrains from referring to the SDF as "armed forces."