Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will appoint Japanese Ambassador to France Ichiro Komatsu as director-general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, an ally who supports his goal of lifting a ban on the right to collective self-defense.
Komatsu will succeed Tsuneyuki Yamamoto, appointed under former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of the then ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
Abe’s decision is expected to be formally approved at a Cabinet meeting on Aug. 8.
The legislation bureau provides opinions to the prime minister and Cabinet members on legal issues and examines all legislative bills in light of the Constitution.
The appointment of an official outside the bureau--one who has no experience in the legislation bureau--is unusual since it is customary to promote a deputy director-general to the post of director-general. Abe chose instead to select the foreign ministry official to replace Yamamoto, who was asked to resign.
Komatsu, 62, has served as the head of the International Legal Affairs Bureau and chief of the Treaties Section at the Foreign Ministry. He assumed his current post in 2011.
He was involved in office work at the private advisory panel on reconstruction of the legal basis for security established under the previous Abe Cabinet, which served from 2006-2007.
The right to collective self-defense is the nation's right to use its armed forces to come to the aid of an ally under attack.
Previous administrations have interpreted that international law gives Japan the right to collective self-defense, but the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits its exercise since it exceeds the limits of the use of armed forces.
The Cabinet Legislation Bureau has maintained its interpretation of Article 9 through repeated responses to questioning at Diet sessions.
Abe apparently is considering paving the way to revising the interpretation to lift the ban on collective self-defense by appointing the like-minded Komatsu.
“We will proceed with discussions, looking at what is necessary to protect the public when the national security environment is undergoing a significant change,” Abe told a news conference at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headquarters on July 22.
The administration plans to resume discussions at the private advisory panel in August. The panel is expected to make proposals to the government as early as fall.
However, New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, remains cautious about changing the interpretation of Article 9 to allow the exercise of collective self-defense.
“There is a possibility of raising additional concern if the interpretation of the Constitution is changed overnight,” New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters on July 22.
The administration will likely start working to gain support for the revised interpretation within the ruling coalition.
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