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2014年6月13日 (金)

党首討論 民主は平和確保の具体策示せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
DPJ must decide party position, offer concrete ideas for maintaining peace
党首討論 民主は平和確保の具体策示せ

Wednesday saw the first question time for one-on-one debates between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other party leaders during the current Diet session, but the discussions ultimately centered on party leaders making one-sided assertions, and the debate failed to develop any real depth. It was certainly regrettable.

With regards to the nation’s right to collective self-defense, a focal issue of the debate, Banri Kaieda, leader of the major opposition Democratic Party of Japan, criticized Abe by saying, “It is unacceptable [for the government] to reject the long-held constitutional interpretation and change it to permit the nation to exercise the right in general.”

Kaieda also said that if the government wants to allow the right to be exercised, that should be accomplished through a constitutional amendment, rather than by altering the government’s interpretation.

Taking into account the deteriorating security environment, Abe said as rebuttal: “We have an enormous responsibility to protect the lives of the people... It is necessary for Japan to strengthen ties with our allies and to prepare a deterrent force.” Abe said he would ask his Cabinet to approve the constitutional reinterpretation following talks within the ruling coalition.

As Abe pointed out, it is a matter of urgency for the government to permit the nation to exercise its right to collective self-defense and to strengthen the deterrent force of the Japan-U.S. alliance, as China has been building up its military power and North Korea poses a threat to other countries with its nuclear and missile development.

Since a constitutional amendment would require a great deal of time, changing the government’s interpretation within reason is a realistic approach.

DPJ disunity

Kaieda made clear that he recognized the need to improve legislation concerning national security, but he did not present any concrete ideas. There are arguments within his party both for and against the exercise of the right, a situation that has hindered the development of a uniform stance for the DPJ.

Kaieda is likely concerned that venturing into specifics could spark conflict among the party ranks. Already, some of the party’s more conservative Diet members have called openly for the replacement of Kaieda as party head, and there is a real possibility those calls will grow in the days ahead.

Yet this is an important issue of national security. The DPJ must work out a uniform party line, and cannot put off relevant discussion within the party.

Pointing to the approval that Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party have expressed for exercising the right to collective self-defense, Abe said, “Even in the face of criticism, it is a politician’s responsibility to face reality and protect the lives of the people.”

During question time, Ishin no Kai coleader Shintaro Ishihara reiterated his long-held position that Japan must draft an entirely new constitution, saying, “All countries have established their own constitutions and amended them many times.”

Abe indicated that he believed in working positively toward amending the Constitution, but there was no in-depth debate on the matter between Abe and Ishihara.

Question time has been limited to only a few occasions in recent years, and debate has been limited to just 45 minutes each. As a result, the discussions have turned into battles of speeches between party leaders.

As a pillar of Diet reform, both the ruling and opposition parties have agreed to hold question time at least once a month, in principle, beginning with the next Diet session. There is also a need to improve the operational aspects of question time, for instance by allowing long debates and making one-on-one debate more substantial.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 12, 2014)


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