The security environment of Japan has been made increasingly difficult in recent years because of such factors as China's military buildup and maritime expansion and North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missiles.
China has put emphasis on enhancement of its maritime military power.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Britain, and other entities, the Chinese military has 70 major surface warships while the US 7th Fleet, deployed in waters around Guam and Japan, has only about 10. With warships of the Maritime Self-Defence Force and the South Korean Navy, the US side can manage to keep its numerical advantage over the Chinese.
Meanwhile, North Korea reportedly has been successful in extending the range of its ballistic missiles, improving their accuracy and miniaturizing nuclear weapons. If Pyongyang succeeds in making nuclear weapons small enough to be mounted on missiles, their threat will become even more serious.
Collective self-defence right
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government in July last year endorsed a new constitutional interpretation, which allows the nation to exercise its right of collective self-defence in a limited way, with the aim of strengthening the Japan-US alliance and its deterrent power.
During the ordinary Diet session to be convened later this month, bills to revise the Self-Defence Forces Law and the law on the nation's response to a foreign armed attack must be approved to ensure the viability of the government's new constitutional interpretation.
Under the new constitutional interpretation, the SDF is assumed to protect US military vessels carrying Japanese nationals or engaging in missile defence.
It is also vital for Japan, which has limited natural resources, to secure the safety of sea-lanes leading to its crude oil supply sources in the Middle East. Geographical restrictions should not be made in exercising the nation's right of collective self-defence to enable MSDF ships to sweep for mines in the Hormuz Strait and other waters.
The government is planning to revise legal procedures to speed up the issuance of an order for the MSDF to take seaborne policing action, so that situations in a security gray area - such as occupation of a remote island by an armed group - could be dealt with more quickly.
We hope the government and the ruling coalition parties will have thorough discussions on what legislation would be most effective to enable the nation to deal with situations ranging from peacetime to an emergency situation in a seamless manner.