The Yomiuri Shimbun November 29, 2013
Passage of NSC bill vital development in safeguarding nation’s peace, security
We welcome the passage of a bill designed to establish an organ to play a key role in issuing directives related to our country’s diplomatic relations and national security. This legislation will soon launch a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council, with the aim of ensuring the nation’s peace and security and defending its national interests.
On Wednesday, the Diet enacted the NSC establishment law. Our country’s NSC will be inaugurated in early December. The first task of the soon-to-be-launched command center will be drafting a comprehensive national security strategy, the first of its kind for Japan, while also writing a new version of the National Defense Program Guidelines. This will likely be followed by the launch in January of a national security secretariat that will serve as the NSC’s executive office.
The NSC establishment law was endorsed by the governing coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, as well as the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party. National security policies should be formulated based on suprapartisan consensus. Given this, it is highly significant that more than 90 percent of lawmakers in both Diet chambers united to pass the NSC bill into law.
The envisaged NSC’s central pillar will be a meeting of the prime minister and three key cabinet members—the chief cabinet secretary, the foreign minister and the defense minister. As a general rule, the meeting is to be held once every two weeks, also attended by the deputy prime minister.
It is most significant that a new system will be set up, by which the prime minister and relevant cabinet members will meet periodically to discuss important issues related to our country’s security and develop a common view on such matters. Themes will include situations related to China and North Korea, the ongoing realignment of U.S. armed forces in this country and issues related to our territory.
The NSC scheme will make it possible for top officials at the Prime Minister’s Office to afford a certain amount of time and energy to address diplomatic and security matters even at a time when the government is confronted by a number of tasks to be tackled at home. This task will be supported by the NSC executive office, which will comprise personnel with professional expertise, including senior Self-Defense Forces members.
We hope all these arrangements will do much to ensure that diplomatic and security policies are given higher priority and are better formulated.
Ensuring PM takes the lead
It will be necessary to ensure the Prime Minister’s Office takes the lead in determining the direction of security policy, a task that requires eliminating a lack of coordination among pertinent ministries and agencies.
This can be exemplified by such immediate tasks as responding to China’s recent move to set up an expanded air defense identification zone and the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. Seeking solutions to both problems requires cooperative relations among several government ministries and agencies. The NSC will be tested over its ability to coordinate and adjust cooperation among these government offices.
Making appropriate decisions about security issues requires improving the ability of all government organs to gather and analyze information.
The NSC establishment law states that relevant ministries and agencies are required to supply the new organ with information related to its function. Information to be managed by the NSC will include government secrets whose confidentiality would be tightly guarded under an envisaged law seeking to stiffen penalties on public servants who leak such information.
With this in mind, relevant cabinet members must give their ministry personnel instructions necessary for facilitating a smooth information supply.
It is also essential that the Diet does not fail to pass the bill designed to prevent the leakage of specified government secrets. The government should also make progress in reforming the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, although it has not done so in connection with the NSC scheme.
Some duties of the NSC and the intelligence and research office may overlap, including analyzing the overseas state of affairs and intelligence regarding acts of international terrorism. The two organizations should promote effective cooperation between them.
The Diet has also adopted a resolution supplementary to the NSC establishment law that will require the government to consider producing the minutes of NSC ministerial meetings. This resulted from negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties.
Admittedly, it is necessary to create a system for compiling records regarding how decisions are made about important policy issues, so that each decision-making process could be verified in the future. Nonetheless, whether to produce the minutes of NSC meetings and disclose related information must be considered by putting all relevant government meetings into perspective, including cabinet meetings and conferences attended by cabinet ministers related to the NSC scheme.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 28, 2013)