Japan govt ramps up moves towards collective self-defense

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-11-15 21:12:17

A government panel comprised to deliberate Japan's right to exercise collective self-defense has compiled a draft report on the issue, stating that such a right would be permissible by changing the current interpretation of Japan's pacifist Constitution, rather than revising it.

The advisory panel's chairperson, Shinichi Kitaoka, oversaw the drafting of the report and its presentation to the other panel members Friday with the final report scheduled to be submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for final approval.

The report states that exercising the right to collective self- defense could "reduce the chances of armed conflict" and could " keep the level of military preparedness low" as compared to when a country defends itself.

It also states that there is no "constitutional constraint against" exercising the right and that it is "not appropriate to set geographical limitations on the operations of the Self-Defense Forces."

The report also states, however, that Japan can only exercise the right to collective self-defense "when a close ally is under attack and that ally issues a clear request for help."

Any decision on whether to exercise the right would have to be made by the Cabinet and would also need to be approved by the Diet, the draft report says.

The expert panel, under Kitaoka, has been convening on the issue since Sept. 17 after talks were temporarily shelved to discuss what roles and actions would be theoretically permissible if Japan were to reinterpret its current pacifist Constitution.

The panel has traversed such scenarios as Japan responding to an event an ally of Japan was attacked and deploying maritime forces for weapons inspection duties and escorting hostile ships to ports in Japan, for example.

Other scenarios were based on potential instances where key shipping lanes were to become hazardous due to overseas conflicts, with the panel suggesting that Japanese Ground and Air Self- Defense Forces could be involved in mine sweeping and removal operations.

The issue of what actions could be taken against submarines that enter what Japan deems to be its territorial waters, and refuse to navigate away following official warnings, have also been discussed, Kitaoka said.

Under Japan's current Constitution, Japan is prohibited from using force to settle international disputes, but Abe is ardently seeking to have the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution changed to strengthen its forces' abilities to defend what Japan considers to be its own interests -- including its territories, allies and assets.

Currently, Japanese forces are prohibited from taking part in many of the panel's propositions, but along with Abe, the United States would like to see Japan have more autonomy to take part in United Nations-led security operations and to defend its allies under certain circumstances.

The draft report maintains that the current interpretation of the Constitution is invalid and open to reinterpretation, possibly without the need to make wholesale revisions to it, as Abe has been pushing for.

Abe, for his part, in a move to bring the right to collective self-defense to fruition, has brought in a new head of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, which has previously stood by the current interpretation of Japan's war-renouncing Constitution, with the new bureau chief himself a proponent of changing the interpretation of Japan's Constitution.

The panel will submit its final report by the end of the year, pending further studies and exploratory discussions alongside a broader plan by the Ministry of Defense (MOD) to review its protocols in line with the formation of a National Security Council here, Kitaoka intimated Wednesday.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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