New law gives Abe greater security power

By Global Times – Agencies Source:Global Times – Agencies Published: 2013-11-28 1:08:01

Japan's parliament on Wednesday passed a law to create a US-style National Security Council (NSC), giving the prime minister's office greater authority to craft the country's foreign and defense policies.

The new framework will be centered around a panel made up of the prime minister, the chief cabinet secretary and the foreign and defense ministers, who will meet twice a month to discuss a range of diplomacy and defense issues.

The body's headquarters will be installed within the Cabinet Secretariat.

Shotaro Yachi, a foreign policy advisor to conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is reportedly expected to be the head of the 60-member government branch.

Japan plans to kick off the first meeting with the prime minister, chief cabinet secretary and foreign and defense ministers next month.

There will be a department designated to China and North Korea affairs under the NSC.

Wang Ping, a research fellow with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that hyping the "China threat" has been used by Abe's administration to make Japan advance toward becoming a "normal country."

Japan considers itself not to be a "normal country" due to its pacifist constitution.

Establishing an NSC has been a priority for Abe since he came to power last December.

Abe's ruling coalition pushed a controversial state secrets bill through the lower house of parliament Tuesday. It will give Tokyo far broader powers in deciding what constitutes a state secret, and severely punish those who leak information.

Critics say the bill is draconian and will infringe press freedom and the public's right to know.

Abe has said the secrecy law will enable the NSC to function effectively, since a legal framework for preventing leaks of state secrets is a prerequisite for Japan to share sensitive security information with other countries.

According to Wang, the establishment of the NSC and the secrecy bill will lead to the centralization of power, which marks a setback in Japan's democracy. "Since Abe assumed office last year, Japan's pacifist image has been changed," she said.

Zhou Yongsheng, a professor with China Foreign Affairs University, told the Xi'an-based Chinese Business View that the establishment of the NSC demonstrated the political ambition of Abe, who "yearns for the centralized power enjoyed by prime ministers during Japan's militarist past but is constrained by the post-World War II political system in the country."

The hawkish prime minister's strengthened authority also raised concerns about further escalation of tension between Tokyo and Beijing, said observers.

Kyodo News Wednesday reported that a draft outline of Japan's new defense guidelines will strengthen the warning and surveillance capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to ensure security in the air and sea around the country.

According to Kyodo, the guideline also says the SDF needs to bolster the ability to defend remote islands from attacks, in an apparent reference to the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

The ability to carry out such a defense would depend on the rapid gathering of information, necessitating cooperation with the US military in surveillance and warning activities, Kyodo quoted the draft as saying.

The Japanese cabinet is expected to approve the guidelines in mid-December after final changes are made, said the report.

Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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