(Asahi: May 29, 2015 – Top play)
By Hisashi Ishimatsu
The House of Representatives special committee deliberating the 11 security-related bills held its second meeting on May 28. The debate was focused on the various security situations, such as a “survival-threatening situation,” in these bills, which will be the basis for invoking the right to collective self-defense. The government’s responses to the opposition’s interpellations were ambiguous and there were instances where the meeting was thrown into confusion.
The Democratic Party of Japan’s Kiyomi Tsujimoto pursued the difference between a “survival-threatening situation” and an “armed attack contingency” where Japan is directly attacked. She asked about the legal basis for allowing the use of force in a “survival-threatening situation” even if the attack is on another country while not allowing the use of force in an armed attack contingency.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani kept repeating his explanation that “the basis for judgment is different for an armed attack on another country and that on Japan.”
When Tsujimoto kept asking Nakatani the same question, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe volunteered to answer. He explained the difference between the two situations amid repeated objections from Tsujimoto. She pointed out the ambiguity of the criteria and claimed that decisions can simply be made at the discretion of the administration in power.
The Japan Innovation Party’s Kenji Eda pressed for concrete examples of a “crisis situation with a major impact,” but Abe refused to go into specifics. Eda criticized him for “attempting to enable the dispatch the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) anywhere in the world” and pointed out that “this is unacceptable to the people.”
The confusion over the various “situations” in the Diet debate is symbolic of the inscrutability of the security bills.
So far, the basis for mobilizing the SDF has been a contingency in Japan. With the Abe administration’s decision to authorize the exercise of the collective defense right and to expand the SDF’s overseas missions, the scope for using force or providing logistic support to other countries is being expanded, resulting in the overlapping of the various situations and lack of clarity in their definition.
The government and the ruling parties are trying to subdivide the various situations by setting down the basis and procedures for judgment based on the situation at hand. However, confusion in the definitions had been one of the concerns even at the stage of consultations between the ruling parties.
It will be unacceptable if the administration is intentionally leaving the definition of the security situations ambiguous to widen its options. The definition of these situations forms the basis of important decisions on whether Japan will be involved in war. The people’s oversight and understanding will be indispensable. The government must address the questions and contradictions raised in the Diet debate by giving concrete examples and provide the people with definitions that are easy to understand. (Slightly abridged)