The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, the Komeito Party, on Friday discussed scenarios that would allow Japan the right to collective self-defense.
The government plans to submit a bill to the Diet after Golden Week, revising the law so that the Self-Defense Forces could be deployed overseas and allowed to use force even if Japan is not under attack.
The proposed legislation will significantly widen Japan's military options by ending the ban on exercising collective self-defense, or aiding a friendly country under attack. It would also relax limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations
Long constrained by the pacifist postwar constitution, Japan's armed forces will become more aligned with the militaries of other advanced nations.
The shift, however, will be welcomed by Washington, which has long urged Tokyo to become a more equal alliance partner, and by Southeast Asia nations that also have rows with China
Japanese conservatives say the constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 has excessively limited Japan's ability to defend itself and that a changing regional power balance, including a rising China, means Japan's policies must be more flexible.
According to the proposed legislation, Japan could exercise force to the minimum degree necessary in cases where a country with which it has close ties is attacked and the following conditions are met: there is a threat to the existence of the Japanese state, there is a clear danger that the people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be subverted, and there is no appropriate alternative.
Precisely how the change might work in practice remains unclear, although it is likely to ease the path to joint military exercises with countries other than the United States.
Members of the Komeito Party have expressed concern that the scenarios -- or "new situations" as they are called -- are vague and say there needs to be a clearer definition of what situations the SDF could be dispatched abroad.
Many analysts believe that even if legal changes are made, Japan lacks the military capability and necessary intelligence network to mount such missions. Japan would also have to get agreement from the relevant country's government before any rescue mission could be mounted.© Japan Today/Thomson Reuters