Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda expressed his willingness to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense, an issue that could further split the ruling party but would likely find support from the main opposition party.
Noda said at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting on July 9 that he is considering a review of the government’s current interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution concerning collective self-defense.
“We want to make detailed discussions (on a review of the interpretation) within the government,” Noda said in response to a question from former Defense Minister Yuriko Koike of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party.
Noda’s statement came after a panel of experts under the National Policy Unit on June 6 proposed a review of the interpretation on the right of collective self-defense to “expand avenues for security cooperation.”
The government has said that under Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan can exercise the right of self-defense only after it comes under attack. But the right of collective self-defense, which refers to a right under international laws for a country to counterattack after an ally is attacked, has proved a tougher issue to tackle.
Under the government’s current interpretation, Japan possesses the right of collective self-defense, but it cannot exercise it.
Noda will likely have a difficult time trying to form a consensus within his Democratic Party of Japan and change the interpretation, as many ruling party lawmakers are opposed to expanding the Self-Defense Forces’ overseas activities.
At a news conference on July 9, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said no decision has been made on whether the National Policy Unit will discuss the subcommittee’s proposal.
The United States has been encouraging Japan to play a more active role in international security issues. However, such participation—and allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense--could heighten tensions with China and South Korea in light of Japan’s military past.
The National Policy Unit panel compiled its proposals on Japan toward 2050 in line with Noda’s long-time arguments.
In a book he wrote in 2009, Noda said Japan should sanction the right of exercising collective self-defense.
“Unless this issue is cleared, we should not discuss dispatching the SDF abroad,” he wrote.
After he became prime minister in September, Noda has maintained that the government has no plans to change the interpretation, but he said the issue can be discussed.
The LDP has long advocated allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense.
The two LDP Cabinets of Shinzo Abe and Taro Aso set up panels on the right of collective self-defense, but discussions were suspended after the party lost power.
Since ousting the LDP in 2009, the DPJ has been plagued by internal bickering.
The turmoil reached a head when former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa and about 50 lawmakers opposed to Noda’s plan to double the consumption tax rate left the party on July 2. A number of DPJ members have also expressed concerns that Noda has become too cozy with the LDP.
At the Lower House Budget Committee meeting on July 9, Noda praised the agreement among the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito to amend the tax hike legislation, which was passed by the Lower House as a result of the tripartite cooperation.
Noda also expressed willingness to hold discussions with the LDP on issues related to the Constitution.
“It is good for the people if we make it possible to reach a conclusion on issues that have been postponed,” Noda said. “I think we should take such a stance in approaching other issues, including those involving the Constitution.”
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