The following is the gist of representative interpellations at the House of Councillors and House of Representatives plenary sessions on Jan. 25, 2018:
Questions in the Upper House
Kohei Otsuka (Democratic Party and Shin Ryokufukai): Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is your goal to submit motions for constitutional amendment (to the Diet) within this year? We need to set rules and regulations as soon as possible on publicity and use of the media to ensure that there will be no manipulation of public opinion or unfair and improper campaigning for the referendum.
Budget allocations relating to the deployment of long-range cruise missiles have been earmarked, and neighboring countries have expressed concern about the deployment of Aegis Ashore. Is this within the bounds of the strictly defensive security policy?
Questions in the Lower House
Yoshihisa Inoue (Komeito): Neighboring countries have voiced objections to the plan to introduce long-range cruise missiles and some think this may enable attacking enemy bases. I would like to reconfirm that the strictly defensive security policy and the roles of defensive “shield” and offensive “sword” under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty will remain unchanged.
We ask that you work on the promotion of Japan-China exchanges and strengthening the cooperative relationship.
Katsuya Okada (Group of Independents): The building of new nuclear power plants must absolutely not be allowed. This was the policy under the Democratic Party of Japan administration. By not building new nuclear plants, we will be able to achieve zero nuclear plants in the near future.
The Trump administration is reported to be planning to expand the role of nuclear weapons. What is the Japanese government’s thinking on U.S. nuclear deterrence and nuclear disarmament?
Kazuo Shii (Japanese Communist Party): The spate of accidents involving U.S. military aircraft in Okinawa is abnormal. Military planes from the U.S. military’s Futenma Air Station are causing accidents all over Okinawa. The withdrawal of the Marines is the only way to protect the Okinawan people’s lives and safety.
Long-range cruise missiles are capable of reaching North Korea from the Sea of Japan and are capable of attacking enemy bases. Refitting the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s destroyers carrying helicopters on board would turn them into aircraft carriers for the takeoff and landing of fighters. It is unacceptable that there is a surreptitious attempt to change the existing constitutional interpretation with respect to the SDF’s equipment.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responses
Defense capability buildup
I do not think that the introduction of long-range cruise missiles will increase tension in the security environment. With regard to the deployment of Aegis Ashore, we will ensure transparency in order to forestall concerns in neighboring countries.
The long-range cruise missiles are being introduced to provide for the effective defense of the country while ensuring the SDF members’ safety. Your criticism that this weapon is not allowed under the constitution is off the mark. The government has never studied any concrete plan to introduce aircraft carriers. (in response to Shii)
Enemy base attack capability
Japan’s defense policy under the constitution is based on the assumption of a strictly defensive security policy. This will not change at all. We rely on the U.S. for offensive capability. There are no plans to change this division of roles between the two countries. There will also be no change at all on this point. (in response to Inoue)
Amid the increasingly harsh security environment, the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance and the presence of the U.S. Marines, which constitute the mainstay of this deterrence, are extremely important. (in response to Shii)
U.S. military aircraft troubles
We have asked the U.S. side to conduct thorough maintenance and inspection of all U.S. Forces Japan aircraft and to take thorough measures to prevent a recurrence. (in response to Shii)
U.S. nuclear strategy
We are watching the concrete steps the U.S. takes and will continue to remain in close communication with Washington. It is important to maintain the U.S. nuclear deterrence under the Japan-U.S. alliance. Japan will serve as an intermediary between the nuclear and nonnuclear nations and continue to make efforts to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons. (in response to Okada)
I hope for constructive discussions by all parties at the Commissions on the Constitution in order to reach a broad consensus among the ruling and opposition parties, as well as the deepening of the people’s understanding. As a result of discussions by all parties (on the national referendum law stipulating the procedures for constitutional revision), a conclusion was reached that campaigning in the referendum should basically be free and only minimum restrictions should be imposed. (in response to Otsuka).