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Yoichi Shimada

【#307(Special)】 Does Consensus Call for Waiting for Being Killed?

Yoichi Shimada / 2015.06.11 (Thu)

June 8, 2015

     Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attitude of paving the way for Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense is surely right. But some of his remarks can be taken as denying key measures to exercise the right of self-defense. Abnormally, however, lawmakers have fallen short of complaining against such wrong remarks.

Will Japan depend on U.S. attacks on enemy bases permanently?
     Asked by a Japanese Communist Party lawmaker on June 1 if Japan could attack enemy bases by exercising the right of collective self-defense, Abe answered: "It is logical to say that Japan cannot protect its people without attacking enemy missile bases or that we should not sit and wait for being killed. But Japan has no capability to implement such attack even for its individual self-defense. Even if Japan is to exercise the right of collective self-defense, the Unites States with offensive capabilities cannot be expected actually to ask Japan without such capabilities to implement such attack."
     In a normal country, lawmakers should have severely asked Abe if this meant Japan would never have offensive capabilities and if the government would leave the people to sit and wait for being killed. In Japan, however, no lawmaker made further questions on the matter under an apparent tacit agreement between ruling and opposition parties that the United States would take care of such situation.
     In May 2009, the National Defense Division of the LDP Policy Research Council clarified attacks on enemy missile bases as necessary and recommended the introduction of sea-launched cruise missiles in its draft proposal for revising the government's Defense Program Outline. But the LDP has left the proposal shelved since then. So have done other parties.

Is Rescuing abductees from North Korea unconstitutional?
     At a meeting of the House of Representatives Special Committee on National Security on March 13, 1991, Ichiro Komatsu from the Foreign Ministry essentially made the following point on the rescue of overseas Japanese citizens whose lives are exposed to grave, urgent attacks:If the foreign country where such Japanese are present has no willingness or capability to remove attacks on foreign citizens, Japan's use of minimum necessary force to protect and rescue such Japanese citizens could be recognized as its exercise of the right of self-defense.
     The rescue of Japanese abductees in North Korea would amount to one of these cases.
     Nevertheless, Prime Minister Abe told the House of Councilors Budget Committee on March 5 last year: "A North Korean insurrecttiton without armed attacks on Japan would not immediately satisfy requirements for Japan's exercise of the right of self-defense. It would be constitutionally difficult for Japan to send a special unit of the Self-Defense Forces for the rescue under such situation." Ruling or opposition parties raised no questions about the Abe remark.
     The original Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (signed in 1951 for effectuation in the next year) had specifically endorsed Japan's exercise of the right of collective self-defense. But the Japanese government later switched its policy to protecting at least the right of individual self-defense from anti-military and pacifist movements of opposition parties and adopted a constitutional interpretation largely discarding Japan’s right of collective self-defense.
     In a bid to reverse the wrong switch, the Abe administration has submitted the bills for Japan's limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. Even for the purpose of passing them through the parliament, however, government leaders should not make any stopgap remarks that could unreasonably limit Japan's exercise of the right of self-defense.
     The present parliamentary discussions indicate that even if the bills pass the parliament, Japan's defense arrangements still deviate far from the international common sense.

Yoichi Shimada is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Fukui Prefectural University.