2014-03: Collective Self-defense Drive

Die Verfassung Japans.  Artikel 9 der Friedensverfassung

LDP members criticize collective self-defense drive; Abe presses on

March 18, 2014. THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe largely dismissed calls from many ruling party lawmakers to take a more cautious approach in his quest to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

A number of members of the Liberal Democratic Party at an informal General Council meeting March 17 said such a landmark reversal in the nation’s defense policy must be achieved through constitutional revision, not a change in the interpretation of the Constitution.

Others said Abe’s goal runs counter to the constitutional ideals that led Japan to peace and prosperity after the end of World War II.

“(Exercising the right to collective self-defense) is incompatible with ‘pacifism’ of the Constitution,” an LDP lawmaker said. “We have no choice but to be more cautious when we approach it.”

But after being briefed on the details of the meeting, Abe decided to move discussions on the issue to the LDP’s consultative council that he is expected to establish this month.

Kensei Mizote, head of the LDP Upper House caucus, expressed concerns that Abe’s private council, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, will only fuel the momentum toward a reinterpretation of the Constitution.

“We should debate the issue with prudence,” Mizote said. “(Abe’s) panel of experts, which appears set to reach an expected conclusion, should not be taken as the government’s view.”

The informal meeting of the General Council was held to form a consensus within the LDP on the issue before Abe’s Cabinet approves the shift in Japan’s security policy. The council is the party’s main decision-making body, along with the LDP convention.

The decades-old government interpretation of the Constitution bans Japan from exercising the right to collective self-defense. If Japan can exercise this right, Tokyo could launch counterstrikes against countries that attack the United States, Japan’s only security ally.

Abe, who advocates “proactive pacifism” and has cited the changing security environment surrounding Japan, seeks to win Cabinet approval for a reinterpretation during the current Diet session.

Those in support of Abe’s plan at the informal meeting argued that the LDP has no choice but to change the interpretation because revising the Constitution would take considerable time due to the many hurdles involved.

“If we cannot do it now, we will not be able to do it forever,” a senior official of the Abe administration said, describing the prime minister’s resolve.

Abe appears determined to settle the issue at an early date, even if it risks a sharp drop in his Cabinet’s approval ratings.

“Politics needs momentum,” a senior LDP official quoted Abe as saying.
Any significant delay in winning Cabinet approval will likely jeopardize discussions on other issues on the political agenda.

The prevailing tone at the two-hour informal meeting showed that Abe does not have the full backing of his party for the constitutional reinterpretation.

Calling the proposed change a “historical turning point,” Tadamori Oshima, a former LDP vice president, called for steps to secure “continuity and transparency” regarding the Cabinet’s interpretation of the Constitution.

Takeshi Noda, a Lower House member, suggested that the change could have negative ramifications on Japan’s diplomacy, even with the nation’s longtime ally.

“I wonder how Japan’s neighbors will look at the change,” he said. “The United States may view it as an unappreciated favor.”

The war-renouncing postwar Constitution was written based on a draft compiled by U.S. occupation forces. Recently, however, Washington has called on Japan to play a more active role in security.

Seiko Noda, chairwoman of the LDP General Council, said at a news conference after the meeting that many lawmakers who endorsed the proposed change also demanded stringent conditions.

Informal gatherings of the General Council are usually held when a weighty issue arises that could lead to the dissolution of the Lower House.

The previous meeting was held in 2005, when the LDP was feuding over then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s push to privatize postal services.

Behind the calls at the latest meeting for a more prudent approach were concerns expressed by retired LDP heavyweights about Abe’s handling of the issue.

“The prime minister is proceeding too fast,” Mikio Aoki, former head of the LDP Upper House caucus, said.
Makoto Koga, who retired from politics after serving as LDP secretary-general and holding other senior posts, criticized ruling party lawmakers for lacking the guts to express their opinions.

“Since they have turned into ‘yes-men,’ they cannot speak up against Abe,” Koga said.

A senior LDP official said the General Council’s meeting was held simply to take the steam out of the politicians opposed to the change.

But Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the LDP, emphasized the importance of reaching a consensus on the issue.
“If the ruling party does not fully debate it, it will not lead to Cabinet approval,” Ishiba told a news conference on March 17.
Ishiba is expected to head the consultative council set up directly under Abe.

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