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Abe changes tack, says minesweeping in South China Sea possible

(Asahi: July 30, 2015 – p. 3)


 By Isamu Nikaido


 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated at the House of Councillors special committee on July 29 that it is possible to exercise the right to collective self-defense and engage in minesweeping in the South China Sea “as long as this meets the three new conditions (for use of force).” Abe had been negative about minesweeping in the South China Sea, but he has effectively modified his position. This was in response to a question from Party for Future Generations lawmaker Masamune Wada. So far, Abe had cited the following examples for exercising the collective defense right: protection of U.S. ships operating to defend Japan in a contingency on the Korean peninsula and minesweeping the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East on Japan’s oil supply route.


 South China Sea is an important sea lane for Japan similar to the Strait of Hormuz. However, Abe had stated at the House of Representatives special committee in June that invoking the collective defense right and engaging in minesweeping in the South China Sea is “rather inconceivable because there are possible detours in the South China Sea.” On July 28, he talked about “China’s massive reclamation work in the South China Sea” at the Upper House special committee, arguing for the necessity of security legislation in response to changes in the security environment. He is now broaching the subject of minesweeping in that sea area.

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