Prime Minister Shinzo Abe officially announced Thursday that the government will start discussions on allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defence under limited conditions by revising, if necessary, the constitutional interpretation, kept intact for more than four decades.
At a 35-minute press conference Thursday evening, Abe expressed the government's determination to protect the lives of the people, saying he will promote discussions to establish a legal framework that will ensure a seamless response to various situations in terms of the nation's security.
The basic direction of discussions on revising the interpretation of the Constitution marks a major turning point for the nation's security policy. Under the government's interpretation of the Constitution adopted and kept since 1972, the country possesses the right to collective self-defence but is not allowed to exercise it.
Abe explained the necessity of being able to exercise the right to collective self-defence through presentation materials meant to better obtain the understanding of the public. One panel showed the need to protect US transport vessels carrying Japanese civilians; another showed the duty to rescue civilians in remote locations by the Self-Defence Forces.
Abe also stressed that discussions will be promoted to strengthen the nation's response to "an infringement that does not amount to an armed attack," or a so-called gray-zone incident. This may include a case in which an armed group disguised as fishermen land on the country's remote islands.
Abe said: "The government will have discussions among the ruling parties based on opinions from the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. Based on the discussions, the Cabinet approval will be given to changes to the interpretation of the Constitution, if necessary, and to a basic direction for a legal system, for protecting people's lives and livelihoods."