Japan’s Ruling Parties Moving Toward Limited Deal on Defense

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party presented its pacifist coalition partner with a guideline for a resolution expanding the country’s defense role and said it has not given up on passing it by the end of the parliamentary session next week.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to reinterpret Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow the military to defend allies amid a territorial dispute with an increasingly assertive China. He has urged his party’s negotiators to reach a deal by June 22 with coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito, which has previously resisted efforts to loosen constraints on the military.

After six sessions of debating complex scenarios, LDP vice-president Masahiko Komura, who heads the coalition project team on the issue, today distributed a single page of “basic thoughts” about the circumstances under which Japan may use force. New Komeito’s Kazuo Kitagawa said his party would consider the ideas before meeting again next week.

“I do not think we should drag this out for ever,” Kitagawa told reporters, when asked about the possibility of passing the cabinet resolution by the end of June. “When we have had a certain amount of debate in the party, I want to reach a conclusion.”

Use of force must be limited to cases where the country’s viability is under threat following an attack on Japan or another country, where there are no other ways of protecting the rights of its citizens, and the use of force must be kept to a minimum, according to a copy of the document distributed to reporters.

Komura said it was “not yet impossible” to pass a cabinet resolution by the end of the parliamentary session.

Abe has said a more proactive military stance is needed to strengthen Japan’s alliance with the U.S. While a resolution would help Abe and both ruling parties “save face,” a minimal change would leave many unhappy in the Japanese and U.S. governments, said Kiyohiko Toyama, a Komeito lawmaker who also attends the negotiations.

“We would be happy,” Toyama said of his own party. “We firmly believe that Japan should not become a military leader in the region.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.