New Komeito has shifted its stance toward approving the limited exercise of the right to collective self-defence, a move that is a step forward. But an incomplete change in the constitutional interpretation regarding the right will certainly not ensure the efficacy of Self-Defence Force activities.
Komeito is considering approving the right's exercise only when "the people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness would be fundamentally undermined," which echoes the government position announced in 1972.
This line of thinking calls for further narrowing the range of cases in which the right could be exercised, compared with the "limited approval" agenda being pushed by the government and the Liberal Democratic Party. Komeito is studying a plan to approve the right's exercise only in such cases as defending US ships transporting Japanese nationals.
But that is hardly sufficient, we must say. To ensure the safety of Japan, Komeito should come closer to the government's current stance.
Sticking to the wording of the past government view to restrict the SDF activities would be confusing the nation's priorities. Komeito should never forget that the purpose of approving the exercise of the right is to enhance deterrence by strengthening the Japan-US alliance and international cooperation.
Responses such as protecting US military ships carrying Japanese while not guarding ships with no Japanese on board, and avoiding missions to sweep mines or intercept ballistic missiles heading toward the United Sates, would not represent genuine international cooperation. It could even incite US distrust of Japan.
It is extremely important to leave room to utilize the Maritime Self-Defence Force, which has strong minesweeping capabilities, to ensure the safety of maritime transportation routes, which are lifelines for Japan. Defending US vessels and mobilizing missile defence during emergencies in areas surrounding Japan is directly linked to the nation's safety.
Can't just repeat 1972 view
It is worth mentioning that the 1972 government view banned the exercise of the right to collective self-defence. Making the new constitutional interpretation consistent to some extent with past government views is important, but if the government tries to make them match perfectly, exercising the right will become impossible.
At the ruling parties' panel on the right to collective self-defence, panel chairman and LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura has presented his personal proposal for three new conditions for invoking the right to self-defence. His proposal would sanction the use of arms only when there are fears that the rights of the people will be fundamentally undermined.