(Tokyo Shimbun: February 4, 2016 – p. 6)
Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Feb. 3:
Tomomi Inada (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP])
Inada: Paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Constitution on not maintaining any military force is no longer valid.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: The LDP is of the opinion that the situation in which 70% of constitution scholars have doubts about whether the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) is constitutional needs to be eliminated and that we need to change this situation with our own efforts. That is why it presented its draft constitutional amendments.
The Constitution was promulgated during the period of U.S. occupation and there are provisions that are now anachronistic. The SDF has been operating both inside and outside Japan for more than 60 years. It now enjoys the people’s solid support. The LDP’s draft proposals call for revising paragraph 2 of Article 9 and the including provisions on a new organization for self-defense. It indicates what the constitution should look like in the future.
The Diet only moves for constitutional amendments; it is the people who decide. It is irresponsible for the Diet to not even submit [proposed revisions] for the people to make a decision.
North Korea’s missile
Inada: How have you been gathering information?
Abe: North Korea has notified international organizations of its intent to launch an artificial satellite. In reality, this means the firing of a ballistic missile. Going ahead with the launch is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions that represents a serious provocation threatening Japan’s security. We will work closely with the U.S., the ROK, and other concerned nations to strongly demand that North Korea refrain from the missile launch.
Kentaro Sonoura (LDP)
Visit to Iran
Sonoura: China and the European countries are engaged in active diplomacy with Iran. Are you considering a visit to Iran?
Abe: I will think positively about a visit at an appropriate time. Japan has been strengthening its traditional friendship with Iran, so it must not be left behind. Iran’s constructive involvement is necessary for dealing with the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and the Syria situation. Iran is not only rich in oil and natural gas resources; it is also a major market.
North Korea’s missile
Sonoura: How will you deal with the issues of North Korea’s nuclear test, missiles, and abduction?
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: We have lodged a protest with North Korea on the impending missile launch through our embassy in Beijing.
Noritoshi Ishida (Komeito)
Ishida: How will you complete the procedures for the TPP in the Diet?
TPP Minister Nobuteru Ishihara: It is necessary to explain to farmers and small and mid-size enterprises that this will be a great opportunity for them. After the agreement is signed, we will promptly submit the ratification bill and other related legislative measures to the Diet. Japan will take the lead in ratifying the agreement at an early date.
Kensuke Onishi (Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ])
Amari’s bribery scandal
Onishi: In light of the scandal involving former Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari, I think the law on punishing profiting by influence-peddling should be reviewed.
Abe: All parties need to discuss this in the Diet.
Onishi: The Prime Minister should exercise leadership in banning political donations from companies and organizations.
Abe: I would like to discuss the issue of how to share the cost of politics in good faith.
Nobuyuki Fukushima (DPJ)
Fukushima: Why did you appoint Mr. Ishihara as the economic revitalization minister?
Abe: Mr. Ishihara has served in a number of important positions, including the LDP secretary general. He was the appropriate person for the job. Economic revitalization is the top priority of the Abe cabinet. We cannot afford any delay.
I hope that Mr. Ishihara will give full play to his abilities to promote Abenomics, which is now at a critical stage, and ensure the end of deflation.
Katsuya Okada (DPJ)
Lower House election reform
Okada: The LDP should accept the recommendation of the experts’ panel to reduce Lower House seats by 10.
Abe: Since the panel has come up with its recommendations, it goes without saying that the LDP will respect these recommendations. I believe we will come to a conclusion based on them.
Okada: You should state clearly your acceptance of the recommendations.
Abe: (The proposals of Deputy Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda) are also one of the positive options. These will be discussed by the LDP as a whole. We take the experts’ panel’s recommendations seriously. We will fulfill our duty to the people by working for an early conclusion on election system reform, including the reduction of Diet seats. The LDP will deliberate all the issues, including reduction of seats.
Amari’s money scandal
Okada: Former Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari was very powerful and the ultimate responsible official for the TPP negotiations. His case should be investigated properly.
Abe: Mr. Amari stated at his news conference the other day that he will conduct further investigations and make the results public. I am confident that he will fulfill his responsibility in terms of accountability as a politician.
Right to collective self-defense
Okada: What is your basis for authorizing the limited exercise of the collective defense right?
Abe: This is based on the preamble of the Constitution and Article 13 (on the right to pursue happiness) and basically adheres to the government’s position in 1972. (Abridged)