Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told The Yomiuri Shimbun he will create the position of state minister in charge of national security legislation as part of his planned Cabinet reshuffle in September.
The move is intended to complement his Cabinet's recent decision to lift the nation's self-imposed constitutional ban on its right of collective self-defence, a move that will allow the use of force under defined conditions.
In an interview with the Yomiuri on Saturday, the prime minister also said his government will submit a package of bills designed to revise laws relevant to the Cabinet's decision on limited approval for exercising the collective self-defence right. The 30-minute interview was conducted at the prime minister's official residence.
Abe also said his administration intends to impose renewed sanctions on North Korea if the country does not satisfactorily honour its pledge to reinvestigate the fate of all Japanese nationals in that country, including those kidnapped by North Korean agents.
"[The planned changes to the relevant laws] will constitute a major legislative revision. So the new Cabinet post must be given to someone well-versed [in national security]," he said.
The Abe Cabinet comprises 18 ministers, the maximum allowed by law. As a result, one member of the Cabinet will likely be assigned to handle the national security legislation portfolio in addition to his or her current post.
The prime minister also hinted at submitting the legislative package to next year's ordinary Diet session, instead of the extraordinary Diet session this coming autumn. "It's necessary to give the public the whole picture [of the package], ranging from bills for gray-zone situations to those related to the collective self-defence right. It's not a matter of where to begin," Abe said.
Making legislative preparations will be "a massive amount of work. So it'll take a while," he said.
The prime minister commented on Pyongyang's promise to report the progress in its new round of investigations into the fate of the abductees by a North Korean special investigative committee. Pyongyang has told Tokyo that the first report on its probe will be delivered somewhere from the end of summer to early autumn.
Abe said North Korea's reinvestigation must make progress from the beginning. "It's important that the first report show substantial progress has been made in resolving the dispute over the abductees and those believed to have been kidnapped," Abe said.
Various organisations tied to the abduction issue, including the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, have demanded the Japanese government impose renewed sanctions on that country if Pyongyang does not keep its promise.
Abe emphasised his intention to decide based on close examination of North Korea's actions to carry out the probe. "The bargaining chip of lifting sanctions can be revoked whenever necessary, thus returning to a situation in which sanctions are imposed again," he said.
The prime minister also commented on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's grip on power. "He's making progress in consolidating his power base through frequent personnel reshuffles," Abe said.
Abe said the abduction issue must be resolved before diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea are normalized. To achieve this goal, the prime minister stressed that he would continue to demand that Pyongyang immediately return all abduction victims to Japan, uncover the whole truth behind the issue, and hand over to Tokyo those responsible for kidnapping Japanese nationals.
Main points from interview
-The national security legislation portfolio will be created in the September Cabinet reshuffle
-A package of bills related to such security issues as handling gray-zone situations and exercising the collective self-defence right will be submitted to a Diet session next year
-The first report to be issued by a North Korean special investigation committee about its probe into abduction victims and other Japanese must contain tangible results
-If North Korea's actions to reinvestigate the fate of abduction victims and others are unsatisfactory, renewed sanctions could be imposed on that country