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Gov’t strives to win people’s understanding of security bills in Upper House debate

  • 2015-08-10 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: August 10, 2015 – p. 2)


 The first phase of deliberations on the security bills in the House of Councillors has ended. In light of lack of support of the bills among the people, the government has been underscoring real threats posed by China or North Korea to argue for the necessity to enact the bills. The debate has also shown that there is too much discretion given to the government in power with regard to the sphere of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) operations and logistic support. The government and the ruling parties are having a hard time making sure that this will not lead to concerns among the people.


 On the first day of deliberations at the Upper House special committee on the peace and security bills on July 28, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited China’s activities: “China is conducting massive reclamation in the South China Sea and is intruding in Japan’s territorial sea near the Senkaku Islands repeatedly.” He argued for the significance of the bills, asserting that “seamless security legislation will safeguard peace and security.”


 Abe had barely mentioned China by name in the House of Representatives deliberations. In light of public opinion polls showing that support for the bills had not broadened among the people, Abe changed tack in the belief that “citing concrete threats will get the message across to the people better,” according to an aide.


 Abe also cited concrete figures to explain the North Korea threat in the Upper House. He said: “North Korea possesses hundreds of ballistic missiles which take most parts of the Japan into their range. They will reach Japan in 10 minutes after launching.”


 With regard to specific cases for exercising the right to collective self-defense, Abe has also changed his responses. He stated at the special committee on July 29 that minesweeping in the South China Sea is basically possible “if the situation meets the three new conditions (for the use of force).”


 He used to say in the Lower House that he had no other cases of minesweeping in mind “except for the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East.” He said that doing so in the South China Sea was “unlikely” because “detours are possible here.” This has changed recently. He is now using China’s increasing activities in the South China Sea to justify the need for the bills.


 Discussions at the Upper House also focused on logistic support for foreign forces. The enactment of the bills will authorize the supply of ammunitions in addition to food, medicine, and other materials allowed under present laws.


 With regard to logistic support to be requested by the U.S. and other foreign forces, the SDF’s role will vary widely depending on the situation. The bills impose as little restrictions as possible. The international peace support bill and the bill on situations with a major impact, which govern logistic support, do not specify what the SDF can transport as ammunitions.


 The fact that many issues are left to the discretion of the government in power may give rise to concerns among the people.


 The opposition cited conscription as an example of an issue left to the government’s discretion. Although Abe said at the committee on July 30 that conscription is “absolutely unthinkable” because it is “unconstitutional,” the opposition is pursuing this issue in line with its assertion that changing the constitutional interpretation at the discretion of the government runs counter to constitutionalism and is “unconstitutional.”


 The Upper House has spent nearly 40 hours deliberating the security bills. It is uncertain whether they will gain broader support among the people after deliberations reach 100 hours, which is normally considered the appropriate time for a vote. (Slightly abridged)

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