The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diet debate must be deepened on collective self-defense right
Diet debate must be intensified further on what can or cannot be done under the government’s new interpretation of the Constitution that would enable a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.
The first Diet discussions on the matter since the Cabinet approval of the new interpretation were held at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Monday. Banri Kaieda, president of major opposition party the Democratic Party of Japan, expressed strong opposition to the Cabinet’s decision on the new interpretation, arguing: “The government has made an about-face in constitutional interpretation without holding Diet discussions. Is it all right to make a decision without listening to the people’s opinions?”
Countering that 70 lawmakers had been involved in question-and-answer sessions, including intensive deliberations, in addition to discussions by an expert panel and consultative talks between the ruling parties, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brushed aside the criticism that the Cabinet decision was made “with more haste than caution.”
Abe’s contention is reasonable because the government and ruling parties went through adequate procedures before making the Cabinet decision.
Diet deliberations will be conducted on bills related to a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. We hope to see that the planned sessions will serve as forums to hold intensive discussions about specific cases in which the right will be exercised, so as to win over a greater number of the people on the new constitutional interpretation.
It is also indispensable to hold discussions on the security environment around Japan, which has been growing more severe due to such factors as North Korea’s recent series of ballistic missile launches.
Referring to the three conditions newly set for exercise of the right of collective self-defense, including “there is a clear danger that the people’s rights will be fundamentally undermined,” Abe presented criteria for judgment on whether to approve an exercise of the right.
Abe said the government will make judgments by “comprehensively considering” such factors as “the intention and capability of a country threatening to attack, and the location, scale and situation of a contingency,” and in light of “the seriousness and graveness of damage anticipated to be suffered by the people.”
Too many constraints harmful
The DPJ’s Katsuya Okada, a former deputy prime minister, criticized the government, saying, “The criteria for judgment are ambiguous, and this leaves much room for [the government’s] discretion.”
Limiting the exercise of the right of collective self-defense is unavoidable to maintain the legal consistency of constitutional interpretation. However, if too much emphasis is placed on restraints for their own sake, it would lead to excessively restricting the scope of Self-Defense Forces activities and the effectiveness of their operations would be lost.
Giving the government a certain level of discretionary power is a realistic option to make it possible to deal with various situations effectively.
While stressing that the SDF will not take part in international military operations such as those during the Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, Abe showed an interest in the SDF’s participation in minesweeping operations, saying that they are “passive and limited and different in nature [in terms of the use of force].”
The idea of differentiating between attacks on other countries and minesweeping operations is understandable. We hope to see the government provide more detailed and comprehensible explanations on the matter.
The DPJ is opposed to the government resorting to changing the constitutional interpretation to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, but has yet to reach a conclusion of its own on whether to approve a limited use of the right. This is because the party has avoided internal discussions of national security due to intraparty differences of opinion. The party should present a unified view of national security as soon as possible.
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have already decided to endorse the limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. The government and ruling parties must make steady efforts to compile relevant bills that would enable the limited use of the right.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 15, 2014)