Reviewing collective self-defense

While all of political Japan continues to discuss the assassination of Nagasaki Mayor Ito — which I discussed here — I am interested in the ongoing preparations for Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Washington at the end of the month.

Today, the Sankei Shimbun reports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shiozaki addressed questions about the Cabinet’s study group on whether to permit the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. Namely, Shiozaki confirmed that no changes will be made to the constitutional interpretation prohibiting collective self-defense without the ruling party’s approval. He said, “Naturally, policy cannot be changed without getting the ruling party’s understanding.” He added, “While the security situation changes, should we not effectively reconstruct the legal foundation? The relationship with the Constitution is being investigated within the administration. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s position is that we should think together with Komeito about what legal foundation is necessary.”

Shiozaki uses the word 与党 (yotoo), which can be translated as “ruling party,” “government party,” or “majority party,” but I have a hunch that when push comes to shove, Shiozaki really means to say 自民党 (LDP). While the statement about including Komeito suggests that he might mean ruling coalition, is Abe really going to let Komeito — which has declared its opposition to both constitution revision and the exercise of the right of collective self-defense — determine his government’s agenda on the normalization of Japanese security policy?

Beyond that, the important point to derive from Shiozaki’s statement is that Japan’s security policy, unlike that of every other major power, is legislature-directed. Normalization is a legislative process; over the past fifteen years, Japan has — aside from token, though important, PKO and reconstruction operations — done little more than pass laws that expand Japan’s security policy potential, starting with the International Peace Cooperation Law and continuing on through the series of laws to implement the revised US-Japan Guidelines and permit Japanese contributions to coalition efforts in the Indian Ocean and Iraq.

Despite the “presidentialization” of the Kantei, the Diet remains the place to watch for developments in security policy.

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