Tokyo Report

LDP Sets Stage for Next Collective Self-Defense Talks

Japan’s coalition partners are looking to iron out their differences over ‘grey-zone issues’ this week.

LDP Sets Stage for Next Collective Self-Defense Talks
Credit: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe via Shutterstock

Japan’s ruling LDP issued a few new proposals this weekend as it renews talks this week with its coalition partner New Komeito over the country’s right to collective self-defense. Talks between the two partners will resume on Tuesday, and so far the more pacifist New Komeito has proven unwilling to quickly approve the LDP’s large raft of changes to the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution, which enshrines Japan’s non-aggressive military posture.

The government said on Sunday it was considering “giving prime ministers a free hand in mobilizing the Self-Defense Forces to respond swiftly to ‘grey-zone’ incidents,” according to the Japan Times. The prime minister would have advance approval from the Cabinet to deploy the SDF to respond quickly to threats to Japanese interests. As the law now stands, the Japan Coast Guard and police force are the only security forces authorized to thwart foreign combatants disguised as citizens who threaten to occupy Japanese territory. This is an example often used by the LDP to allow the prime minister greater latitude in dealing with threats that could materialize quickly.

According to the government sources spoken to by the Japan Times, the prime minister may deploy the SDF if there is a “special need,” under the government’s new plan.

In an apparent attempt to placate its junior New Komeito partner, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning to outline 15 new contingencies in which collective self-defense would be necessary. New Komeito has repeatedly said it wants to address “grey-zone issues” first, as it believes clarifying when and how the SDF may be deployed will reduce the need to reinterpret the constitution through the right of collective self-defense.

This is in addition to 10 scenarios the LDP outlined last week. Government sources, again speaking to the Japan Times, said the new contingency plans mainly involve situations in which the SDF would need to protect U.S. ships. The government is being careful in how far their new plans go, for instance not including scenarios “that stop short of full-fledged military attacks… [or] a grey-zone scenario in which foreign submarines enter Japanese waters and refuse to leave despite repeated warnings.”

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The LDP will likely be careful in how far and how fast it pushes New Komeito in negotiations this week, as it seeks a unified Cabinet position on collective self-defense before this fall. There is still time for negotiation, and it appears the LDP is seeking to get New Komeito’s concerns about grey-zone issues settled quickly, in the hopes that the two parties can come to an agreement on a larger reinterpretation of the Constitution.