Japan ‘should widen military role to defend its allies too’
TOKYO — Japan should change the interpretation of its Constitution to allow its military to defend not only its ally, the United States, but also other countries whose interests are closely intertwined with Tokyo, a key security adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
The proposed change would represent a further stretching of the limits of Japan’s post-war, pacifist Constitution and go beyond proposals that the country should only exercise its right of collective self-defence to aid US forces, with which it has a formal alliance.
The right to exercise collective self-defence should be applied “to any country which is very close to Japan”, Mr Shinichi Kitaoka, who is a member of a panel preparing a report for Mr Abe on the topic, told Reuters in an interview this week.
“In other words, if that country is heavily damaged and that might bring a serious threat to Japan, then this is a situation in which Japan may consider exercising the right of collective self-defence.”
Coming to the defence of South-east Asian countries, several of which — like Japan — are engaged in territorial disputes with China, could be one of the scenarios that the change could address, Mr Kitaoka said.
Another example he cited was a threat to sea lanes of vital interest to Japan.
“If this is an attack on a Japanese vessel, this (comes under) our right of individual self-defence. If this invites big confusion, then this will (come under) collective security under the United Nations umbrella,” he said. “If US vessels or Australian vessels or Indian vessels, which are protecting this sea lane, were attacked and this has a very big impact on Japan, then Japan has the right to cooperate with those countries and remove it (the threat).”
Mr Abe has advocated revising the interpretation of the 1947 US-drafted Constitution held by successive Japanese governments that says the country has the right to collective self-defence, but should not exercise that right. He has appointed a sympathetic bureaucrat to head the constitutional watchdog in charge of the interpretation.
But the junior partner in his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition, the dovish New Komeito, is dragging its heels, so more drastic proposals may not win government approval.
The proposed shift is part of Mr Abe’s long-term agenda, whose end point is revising the Constitution’s pacifist Article 9, adopted after Japan’s defeat in World War II and seen by conservative critics as hobbling its ability to defend itself as a “normal nation” in line with international practices.