Komeito’s efforts to ensure maintenance of defense-only policy

July 17 , 2015

Based on consultation between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, the government made a Cabinet Decision on a security legislation package defining the limits of self-defense on July 1, 2014.

Komeito has consistently demanded that the legislation uphold the pacifist principles of the Constitution based on the longstanding constitutional interpretation of the government. Consequently, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided not to allow the exercise of collective self-defense for the purpose of defending another country, clearly stating in his press conference on May 15, 2014, that this would “not be logically consistent with the traditional interpretation of the Constitution.” Behind this statement was Komeito’s strong opposition to the exercise of collective self-defense for defending another country.

During consultations with the LDP prior to the Cabinet Decision, Komeito firmly asserted that the new legislation should be logically consistent with the existing interpretation of the Constitution. Otherwise, the interpretation could change with each new cabinet.

As a result, the Cabinet Decision clearly articulates that the basic theoretical framework of the official interpretation of 1972, on which the current interpretation was built, must be upheld in the future.

Moreover, Komeito made the three new conditions for self-defense measures more precise: following the proposal of the party, the final language of the Cabinet Decision defined “another country” (under armed attack) as one “with which Japan has close ties” and clarified that one of the conditions must be “a clear threat” to the fundamental right of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as opposed to just “a possible threat” in the original draft.

Komeito is also responsible for defining the use of armed force under the three new conditions as being permissible only if this is unavoidable as a means of self-defense. With this limitation, the use of force is only permitted to defend Japan and its people.

The Cabinet Decision opens by confirming Japan’s postwar basic policy of maintaining a defense-only policy, not becoming a military power threatening other countries, and upholding the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, and states that Japan must “further fortify such a position,” and pursue peaceful settlement of disputes by advancing vibrant diplomacy. These elements also reflect Komeito’s view.

As described above, throughout its consultations with the LDP, Komeito has always insisted that the basic theoretical framework of the traditional interpretation be maintained. Prime Minister Abe therefore declared in his press conference on July 1, 2014, following the Cabinet Decision: “The basic idea of the official interpretation of the Constitution remains unchanged in the Cabinet Decision.”

Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow of the Tokyo Foundation, has evaluated Komeito’s efforts as follows:

“Komeito took a cautious stance with emphasis on upholding a defense-only policy and pacifism, and had this reflected in the Cabinet Decision. This became a positive factor for alleviating the concern of neighboring countries. At the same time, the opposition parties did not express their opposition in terms of basic principles as they had done in the past. It is essential in a functioning democracy to form consensus by maintaining a balance among realistic policies, staying away from extreme and emotional views. I believe that Komeito contributed to deepening the discussion in its consultations with the LDP and in Diet deliberations.”