Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said strengthening ties with the United States is a "priority," and he wants to discuss at an early date easing a constitutional restriction on Japanese troops serving alongside foreign militaries in a broader range of missions than at present.
"Reviewing the right to collective self-defense is one of Abe administration's central policy aims, and because of that I want to discuss it with President (Barack) Obama," Abe said Jan. 13, speaking to Japan Broadcasting Corp.
The right to collective self-defense refers to a nation's right under international law to come to the aid of an ally under attack. The government's current reading of the Constitution is one that recognizes that right but prevents it from being exercised.
Abe has long expressed his readiness to abolish the ban by reinterpreting the Constitution.
He hopes to visit the United States in February and discuss the change with the American president.
"Enhancing the Japan-U.S. alliance is a priority," said Abe. "I would like to have a meeting in February, if possible."
On lifting the ban on collective self-defense, he added: "We need to discuss how the Japan-U.S. alliance would change and how regional stability would benefit."
The first Abe administration set up a panel of experts that recommended in 2007 that Japan drop the ban. Abe now plans to consult the panel once more and restart deliberations on its recommendation.
Meanwhile, Abe told advocates of Japan's membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade zone to bide their time, suggesting he would not use the meeting with Obama to announce that Japan was joining the membership talks. The United States leads those talks and wants Japan to join.
"It has been less than one month since we came to power, and we haven't had enough time to analyze the situation sufficiently," Abe said.
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