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2014年11月25日 (火)

社説:安倍政治を問う 集団的自衛権

November 24, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: General election debate should focus on collective self-defense
社説:安倍政治を問う 集団的自衛権


During its just two years in power, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has implemented a cascade of security policies that steer Japan away from its long-held postwar path. What's common to all these policy measures is the foregone conclusions that Japan needs to strengthen its alliance with the United States to counter the threat posed by China. Also, these policies were all implemented with a shocking lack of deep discussion.

The shift that epitomizes this is the July Cabinet decision to change the government's interpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Abe has tried to set the "Abenomics" economic policy mix and the postponement of the consumption tax hike as the biggest points of contention in the House of Representatives election. The prime minister must, however, provide an explanation and answer questions about collective self-defense and other security policies.


In the last lower house election in 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) rapped the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration for "diplomatic defeats." The LDP surged to power by pledging to "steadfastly defend Japan's sovereignty as well as its territory on land and sea." The public's sense of crisis and growing nationalism amid rising tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture helped bring about the second Abe administration.

Why is there the need to permit Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense? The prime minister -- eyes apparently fixed on China -- says it is aimed at "protecting the public's lives and peaceful living" and that it boosts deterrence and reduces the risk of Japan getting involved in war.

In the face of China's military buildup and maritime advancements, the U.S. is not as reliable as it once was, burdened as it is by a prolonged "war on terror" and severe fiscal circumstances. There is no guarantee that the U.S. would intervene militarily in the event of an armed clash between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands. Prime Minister Abe apparently believes that it is necessary to further promote military integration between Japan and the U.S. by paving the way for Japan to invoke collective self-defense to get the U.S. involved in the event of an emergency.

In addition to the right to collective self-defense, the Abe government introduced the special state secrets protection law, eased Japan's long-held Three Principles on Arms Exports, and is poised to review the country's outline for Official Development Assistance to developing nations to authorize aid to foreign militaries for non-military purposes. The secrecy law imposes severe punishments on public servants who leak information designated secret, while the relaxation of the Three Principles allows arms exports if they are deemed to contribute to Japan's security.

All these moves are aimed at bolstering the Japan-U.S. alliance to keep China in check, and at strengthening cooperation with Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

There is no doubt that China's acts of provocation are causing concern for the international community, raising the need to reinforce international alliances.

However, it is doubtful whether the right to collective self-defense and the secrecy law are the proper methods to deal with the situation.

The prime minister has only repeated the "protecting the public lives and livelihood" catchphrase while providing little logical explanation of the connection between the means and the goal.

Furthermore, there are no clear brakes on Japan's exercise of the right to collective self-defense.

The Cabinet decision on collective self-defense states that Japan is to be allowed to use the right to the minimum necessary level in the case of a clear threat to the fundamental rights of Japanese citizens.

What constitutes a "clear threat," however, remains ambiguous.

While the prime minister has stated that minesweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East will also be subject to the right to collective self-defense, the LDP's coalition partner Komeito remains cautious and wants to limit collective defense operations to areas surrounding Japan.

The gap in the ruling parties' interpretation of the law means that it can be interpreted arbitrarily.


Diet deliberations on bills related to the collective self-defense right are scheduled for next spring.

Not only the DPJ and other opposition forces but also Komeito are urged to use the current election campaign to thoroughly discuss the issue to limit the scope of the right to collective self-defense.

Particularly as Komeito declared at the time of the July Cabinet decision that it had succeeded in limiting the scope of the exercise of collective self-defense, the party must clarify exactly what those limits or checks are.

Adopting such a major policy shift through a Cabinet decision is also highly problematic.

Successive cabinets had upheld the government's constitutional interpretation -- that the exercise of the right to collective self-defense is "not tolerated under the Constitution" -- for over 40 years.

That long history was overturned by a mere decision of Cabinet. This runs counter to the spirit of constitutionalism, wherein the Constitution exists to protect the public from excesses of state power.

The prime minister's dissolution of the lower house for a general election appears to be aimed at prolonging his rein, stabilizing his political foundation ahead of moves to amend the Constitution.

If that is the case, he should take up the challenge of a vigorous debate on collective self-defense during the election campaign.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has declared that it is the Abe administration's prerogative to decide the issues of contention in the general election, adding that the right to collective self-defense is not such a major policy change that the government needs a new mandate from the public.

The government must be called arrogant for its claim that it and it alone has the right to set election issues.

In February, Abe caused a stir after stating that he was ultimately responsible for the government's change of constitutional interpretation and that he would seek the verdict of the public through an election.

Having said that, there is no way he can escape from that verdict -- especially by pretending the issue does not exist.

If the government is to alter its interpretation of the Constitution in a way that affects the fundamental principle of Article 9, it should take the formal step of a constitutional amendment instead of constitutional reinterpretation.

The government should never tell us that any policy is not up for serious debate in a general election, and then claim a mandate for that policy by winning that very election. It simply does not make sense.

毎日新聞 2014年11月24日 02時30分


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