(Mainichi: January 22, 2016 – p. 2)
By Satsohi Kusakabe
Cabinet Legislative Bureau chief Yusuke Yokobatake acknowledged that the bureau did not keep a record of internal discussions that took place in 2014 on the processes regarding the reinterpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.
Yokobatake commented for the first time at a Jan. 21 House of Councillors Audit Committee meeting by responding to a question from Takashi Ezaki, a Democratic Party of Japan member.
“I feel this was not the type of thing that should be recorded in the form of minutes,” he said. “The discussions centered on how to organize new ideas based on the clauses of the Constitution and the minutes of Diet deliberations, and I explained the contents at the Diet last year.”
The Public Records Management Act requires administrative organizations to record the processes for cabinet decisions and the enactment of legislation in a verifiable fashion. Asked by Ezaki if not keeping records of the internal discussions was a violation the law, Yokobatake answered: “We recorded the document of approval after an official inquiry was made and we are properly managing it in accordance with the law.”
On June 30, 2014, a day before the Abe cabinet decided to approve the exercise of collective self-defense, the Cabinet Secretariat’s National Security Secretariat asked the Cabinet Legislative Bureau to look into a cabinet decision draft that included the reinterpretation of the Constitution. On July 1, an official tasked with handling this matter in the Cabinet Legislative Bureau replied by phone “There is no opinion” and crafted a document to seek approval from Yokobatake. This was the “document of approval” that Yokobatake referred to.
But the government acknowledges that the officials in charge of the matter both in the Cabinet Legislative Bureau and the National Security Secretariat held discussions prior to June 30. According to sources familiar with the ruling parties, Yokobatake participated in informal meetings with Liberal Democratic Party Vice President Masahiko Koumura and other senior members and agreed to the reinterpretation of the Constitution in advance. The contents of these discussions and meetings were not recorded in official documents. (Slightly abridged)