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Tokyo aims to overturn stance on collective self-defense rule

Updated: 2014-06-18 08:18
By Zhang Yunbi ( China Daily)

Tokyo looks set to further loosen legislative restrictions on sending troops into war zones and to change its postwar defense posture, as the Cabinet issued on Tuesday a draft summary outlining Japan's controversial definition of collective self-defense.

Beijing said on Monday that any policy adjustments on Japan's military security "should not harm China's sovereignty and security interests".

Japan has manufactured incidents and stirred up tension to pave the way for easing the constitutional curbs that have kept the military out of overseas conflicts for nearly 70 years, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The draft overturns the present interpretation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution to allow Japan to fight with other nations under the umbrella of collective self-defense.

The article had been interpreted until now to mean that Japan has the right of individual self-defense while maintaining the minimum forces necessary to achieve that. It can exercise collective self-defense only to aid forces of the United States, with which it has a formal alliance.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet submitted the draft for a panel discussion by the ruling coalition for further review, listing conditions that will allow the right of collective self-defense. The conditions include aiding other countries if they requested Japanese military assistance or the Cabinet considers the situation a danger to Japan.

It is the vagueness of these conditions that has raised fears.

Discussions have been heated over Abe's push for reinterpreting the pacifist Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense. Abe has been a long-time advocate of revising the interpretation of the 1947 US-drafted constitution.

Masahiko Koumura, vice-president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told reporters in Tokyo after a panel meeting on Tuesday that the LDP "pledges flexible measures if some changes are required to be made" to the text of the draft.

Kazuo Kitagawa, deputy chief of the New Komeito party, the junior partner of the ruling coalition, said "a final consensus within the ruling coalition is unlikely to be reached by June 20", Japan's Kyodo news agency reported.

Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun warned in a column published on Monday: "The largest issue at hand is the future of Japan's peaceful coexistence with other nations, and with it the power of Japanese ideas and intentions to shape the world.

"The question is whether Japan should continue its present course for the rest of this century or strike out in a new direction, confident but mindful of the sins of its past."

Lyu Yaodong, an expert on Japan's diplomacy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe claimed the economy was his top priority, but he was actually reshaping Japan's security and defense policies.

"Abe is shifting his role from an implicit right-wing supporter who courted nationalist voters to an explicit advocate of denying Japan's colonial and militaristic past," Lyu warned.

Chinese Ambassador to Japan Cheng Yonghua called upon both countries to make "calm and cautious judgments".

"China and Japan are undergoing a run-in period with adjustments on mutual recognition, and they are faced with strategic options - to be friends or foes, to be cooperative or antagonistic," Cheng said in a Monday speech.

Xinhua contributed to this story.