Japan’s main opposition party may come around to back Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for revising Japan’s self-imposed ban on collective self-defense. Deputy Secretary-General of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and former Vice Defense Minister Akihisa Nagashima told reporters Wednesday that the DPJ should support the LDP’s proposal to legalize Japan’s right to a “limited” use of the right to collective self-defense, according to The Japan Times. Nagashima said that the proposal made by the deputy head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Masahiko Komura “is acceptable to many DPJ members.”
Nagashima, who served in Naoto Kan’s administration, is a prominent opposition name to endorse bipartisan convergence on the collective defense issue. However, Nagashima’s endorsement does not mean that his entire party is on board for the moment. The DPJ still has significant intra-party opposition to revising the collective defense ban. Still, Nagashima’s endorsement adds important political capital for the Abe administration as it continues to push for a revision of the ban.
Nagashima also mentioned what he saw as expansionist moves by China in justifying his support for revising the ban. This development will likely raise suspicions of Japan in China, which can now credibly point to support for revising Japan’s pacifist constitution across party lines.
In February, a 14-member government panel said that revising Japan’s constitutional ban on collective defense is possible, provided the government alters its current interpretation of the constitution.
Despite a seeming convergence on the collective defense issue, it is unclear if Japan’s public supports revising the constitution at this point in time. A survey by Kyodo News earlier this year found that 53.8 percent of respondents still oppose revising the constitution’s ban on collective self-defense, with 37.1 percent in favor. An Asahi Shimbun poll more recently found that more than 60 percent of respondents opposed the Abe administration’s plans to revise the collective defense ban. The Asahi survey also found that 49 percent of those in favor of lifting the ban said that Japan should “win the understanding of its neighbors before lifting the ban, while 46 percent said Tokyo does not need to do so.” Overall, Japanese public opinion is polarized over the issue.
Currently, the Abe government is planning on revising its interpretation of the constitution without actually taking steps to modify the post-World War II document, which famously says that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
Collective defense refers to an arrangement where participating states commit to support each other in the case of an attack by an outside state. For Japan, revising its stance on collective defense will have an important effect on its relationship with the United States. The two states share a security treaty and the U.S. fields a large military presence in Japan.