Interview by Keiko Takahashi
Q: You have voiced doubts about Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statements on constitutional revision.
Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba: I was really surprised that the party president suddenly talked about something that had never come up in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) before. He should have talked about this at a party convention or in the LDP official organ.
Q: What do you think of the Prime Minister’s proposal to retain Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 9 but add an explicit provision on the Self-Defense Forces (SDF)?
Ishiba: I won’t be able to comment without looking at the wording of the proposed Paragraph 3. The general opinion of scholars of the Constitution is that Paragraph 1 renounces war in the spirit of the Preamble, while Paragraph 2 renounces the maintenance of any war potential in accordance with Paragraph 1. The government has so far justified the existence of the SDF with the reasoning that “self-defense is an inherent right of the state.” The introduction of a Paragraph 3 may make the contradiction permanent.
Q: You have argued that the full exercise of the right to collective self-defense should be allowed under the constitution, while restrictions to the exercise of this right should be imposed through a basic law on national security.
Ishiba: The reason I turned down the appointment for defense minister during the cabinet reshuffle of 2014 is that the Prime Minister said that limited exercise of the collective defense right is the most that the current constitution allows and that anything beyond that will require constitutional revision. He has not said anything about the collective defense right after Article 9 is amended by adding a provision.
Q: Do you have support in the LDP for your position?
Ishiba: Half of the incumbent LDP Diet members have not participated in the constitutional debate after the first Abe cabinet. Since becoming a member of the General Council last September, I have been saying that we need to hold a meeting to explain to the party members how the LDP’s draft constitutional revision proposals came about. It is quite natural that we should be able to explain these things to our constituencies, but no such meeting has been held yet. At the very least, no Diet member should be ignorant about whether it is desirable to add a Paragraph 3 to Article 9.
Q: Isn’t it true that the Prime Minister’s proposal has spurred the constitutional debate?
Ishiba: We have failed to make progress in the debate because the LDP itself had not made up its mind. With the Prime Minister saying, “We will not be bound by the LDP’s draft proposals,” the basis of discussion will change. I would like to see the Constitution revised while there are still people in this country who have experienced the last war. Even though time is limited, we should first form a consensus inside the LDP. (Slightly abridged)