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Constitution does not prohibit collective self-defense: former Japanese ambassador to U.S.

  • 2015-07-23 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: July 23, 2015 – p.4)


 Interview of former Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai


 Q: The bills for the security legislation were based on the opinions offered by “the Advisory Panel of Reconstruction on the Legal Basis for Security,” an expert panel that you chaired.


 A: The opinions we offered in May 2014 were theoretically simpler; however, the actual bills for the security legislation have become very complicated and incomprehensible on account of political reality and conventional arguments by Cabinet Legislation Bureau. The provision on collective security that was included in the opinions was not incorporated into the bills. Although United Nations forces have not been formed yet, if an aggressor nation emerges, the concept of containing such a nation collectively is different from “use of force” by an individual nation as means of settling international disputes, which the Constitution prohibits. For the purpose of restoring and maintaining peace, Japan should be able to join in combining forces from all nations.


 However, it may be difficult to decide all of these political issues at once. This time, the government stepped forward to allow the right to exercise collective self-defense under certain conditions, which is moving forward for enhancing Japan-U.S. alliance and strengthening deterrence.


 Q: How do you view the interpretation by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau that prohibits the right to exercise collective self-defense?


 A: Article 9 of the Constitution renounces war or the use of force “as means of settling international disputes.” The renunciation of war is based on the concept incorporated in the “Paris Peace Pact” in 1928. Among various international efforts for banning war, there has been no argument that “the individual or collective right of self-defense should be renounced.” No countries take the position, as adopted by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, that begins with the argument that “Article 9 appears to prohibit every instance of the use of force.” The right of self-defense originally comes from legitimate self-defense expressed in the criminal law of each country. Japan’s Criminal Law stipulates that “an act performed unavoidably to protect the rights of oneself or any other person against imminent and unlawful infringement is not punishable.” This concept is reflected in international law.


 Q: In the deliberations on the security legislation at the House of Representatives, opposition parties requested clarification of “the situation that poses a threat to Japan’s existence” that will allow the right to exercise collective self-defense.


 A: There is no country with a law that clearly differentiates between a situation that allows a counterattack and one that does not. If a situation that allows a counterattack is clearly defined, an enemy will attack the country in a way that is not defined. That will not enhance the country’s deterrence, and we should not be drawn into such argument.


 It is necessary for Japan to bolster its defensive capability. However, no matter how much Japan enhances its defenses, its neighbors will continue to possess a nuclear capability. How can Japan demonstrate deterrence? The best way is obviously strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance.


 Q: There is persistent criticism that “Japan will be drawn into a war on the other side of the earth.”


 A: The right of collective self-defense is a right, not an obligation, which means Japan does not necessarily have to exercise it. During the Gulf War, there was no argument that Japan should deploy a combat unit. Even if a conflict involving the U.S. takes place in Central and South America, the U.S. would not realistically call for Japan’s help. If the U.S. asks for Japan’s help in one in a million cases, Japan can decide whether or not to exercise the right.

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