Security bills and Komeito

May 16, 2015

Komeito Vice Representative Kazuo Kitagawa

(The following is a translation on an interview with Komeito Vice Representative Kazuo Kitagawa, acting chair of the Ruling Coalition Committee on Security Legislation, published in Komei Shimbun newspaper on May 16, 2015)

Security bills, aimed at achieving the peace and safety of Japan, were submitted to the Diet on May 15. We interviewed Komeito Vice Representative Kazuo Kitagawa, on the significance of the new bills and the party’s aims.

The need to protect Japanese people and contribute to international peace in an increasingly severe security environment


Komei Shimbun: What are the threats confronting Japan today?

Kitagawa: We face the threat and ongoing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons as well as [their delivery systems in the form of] ballistic missiles. And this military technology is advancing at an enormous speed. We also have a neighboring country with a purported nuclear weapons program that repeatedly test-fires ballistic missiles. International terrorism and cyber terrorism also pose serious threats.

Against this background, we need to develop security policies that allow the government to address any situation in a seamless manner and enhance deterrence in order to address the crucial task of protecting Japan and its people.

At the same time, it is also important to contribute to the peace and security of the international community. From this perspective, the ruling coalition has discussed at length necessary revisions of security legislation. (See chart)

Overview of important new legislation

Horizontal axis: Low/Severity of situation/High
Vertical axis: Safety of Japan/Safety of international society

(Upper row)

Revised SDF Law:

Protection of weapons and assets of US and other militaries.

Important Influence Situations Law (Revision Emergency-at-Periphery Law ):

Logistical support to US and other militaries in critical situations that may have important influence on the peace and security of Japan, including direct armed attack against Japan, if not properly responded.

Revised Armed Attack Situation Response Law:

New three conditions defining the limits of exercising self-defense measures have now been codified as a law.

(Lower row)

Revised International Peace Cooperation Law:

Expansion of peacekeeping activities to allow protection of other troops and local residents, and to allow participation in non-UN missions under strict conditions similar to the Five Principles of PKO Participation.

International Peace Support Law:

> Logistical support for foreign militaries participating in operations undertaken for the peace and stability of the international community, provided that the operation is authorized according to international law.


Collective self-defense in order to defend other countries is NOT recognized.

KS: Some are critical, stating that the ruling coalition is moving too hastily.

Kitagawa: The ruling coalition began discussion on security bills in May 2014. Discussions took place 25 times in total over the past year, with the relevant material and information disclosed each time. Komeito has had even more extensive internal deliberations. So I don't think we are being hasty.

Now that the bills have been submitted to the Diet, we will work to ensure that there is vigorous debate in both Houses to win public understanding.

Defense-only policy is upheld; the new three conditions prohibit exercise of collective self-defense for the sole purpose of defending other countries

Kitagawa: It should be noted that, under Article 9 of the Constitution, the exercise of collective self-defense solely for the purpose of defending other countries is not and will not be allowed.

The government's interpretation of Article 9 has been formulated through discussion in the Diet over the years. Central to the interpretation is the government view of 1972 which states: "Such measures for self-defense are permitted only when they are inevitable for dealing with imminent unlawful situations where the people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is fundamentally overturned due to an armed attack by a foreign country, and for safeguarding these rights of the people. Hence, 'use of force' to the minimum extent necessary to that end is permitted."

The Cabinet Decision of July 2014 was a result of in-depth discussion based on this interpretation regarding the scope of self-defense measures that would be allowed to protect Japanese people in the context of an increasingly harsh security environment. Three new conditions for the use of force allowed under Article 9 were set forth in the Cabinet Decision, all of which have been articulated in the bills.

Three new conditions for self-defense measures allowed under Article 9 of the Constitution

1) That an armed attack against a foreign country that is in close relationship with Japan occurs and there is a clear danger for Japan's survival to be threatened and for people's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be fundamentally overturned.
2) That there are no other appropriate means available to repel the attack and ensure Japan's survival and protect its people.
3) That use of force be kept to the minimum extent necessary.

KS: What is the significance of the new three conditions?

Kitagawa: They clearly define the limits of self-defense measures. The new three conditions limit the use of force to situations that pose a clear danger to the survival of Japan and the rights of its people due to an armed attack to Japan or a country with close ties with it. What "a clear danger" means here is a situation equivalent to an armed attack on Japan that poses a serious threat to the Japanese people.

Furthermore, the exercise of self-defense is allowed only when there is no other appropriate means to ensure the survival of Japan and protect its people. These strict conditions only recognize the self-defense of Japan.

Therefore, the core of the government's existing interpretation of Article 9 that prohibits the use of force overseas is upheld. The right of collective self-defense for the purpose of defending another country as provided for in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations is not allowed.

Logistical support for foreign militaries to ensure Japan's safety and the peace and security of the international community, with no use of force

KS: How would you define logistical support for foreign militaries?

Kitagawa: This is provision of logistical support to non-Japanese military forces in a way that is not integrated into their combat operations with the purpose of (1) ensuring Japan's peace and safety in situations that seriously affects the country, or (2) contributing to peace and security of the international community in situations where it is threatened.

(1) The first case relates to the Emergency-in-Periphery Law, which will now be revised and become the "Important Influence Situations Law." (2) The second case has thus far been addressed by special measures laws, such as the Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law, adopted in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. This new law will be adopted as general, permanent law known as the International Peace Support Law.

(1) and (2) differ greatly in terms of their purposes, so Komeito insisted that they be made separate laws.

KS: In peacetime, the use of armed force or activities integrated into another country's combat operations would not be allowed even if they constituted logistical support to ensure Japan's safety.

Kitagawa: That is correct. Article 9 of the Constitution prohibits the use of force, and to prevent Japan's logistics support from becoming integrated into combat operations, only deployment in non-combat zones will be allowed. Support activities can also be suspended or terminated if an area is becoming a combat zone.

KS: Logistics support is provided for the sake of the peace and security of the international community. Why is it necessary to make this into permanent law?

Kitagawa: By making a permanent law, the Self-Defense Forces can conduct drills and prepare their personnel in peacetime, which will enable them to swiftly coordinate with the United Nations or other countries and conduct on-site research and other activities in preparation for an emergency situation that threatens the peace and stability of the international community. This would allow us to choose roles and tasks appropriate to the Self-Defense Forces.

KS: Wouldn't a permanent law give the government a free hand to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces overseas with no restriction?

Kitagawa: Komeito proposed the following three principles to put brakes on overseas dispatch of SDF personnel: 1) legitimacy under international law; 2) public understanding and democratic control; and 3) securing the safety of SDF personnel.

In terms of the legitimacy under international law, the permanent legislation will require consistency with the United Nations Security Council resolutions and other relevant resolutions, reflecting Komeito's emphasis on the fact that the past special measures legislation was created based on those resolutions.

Komeito has also strongly emphasized public understanding and democratic control through the involvement of the Diet in the process. As a result, every overseas dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces would require Diet approval in advance without exception. In addition, the extension of any dispatch after two years would have to be approved by the Diet.

Also, before approving it, the Diet can check the basic dispatch plan to ensure the safety of Self-Defense Force personnel.

Self-Defense Forces participation in peacekeeping operations will not include police duties to maintain security in another country

KS: Are the Self-Defense Forces going to be tasked with maintaining public order overseas and expand the scope of the use of weapons?

Kitagawa: The Self-Defense Forces will not assume the task of maintaining security, which belong to the local police forces.

Under the revised PKO law, the Self-Defense Forces will be tasked with the same peacekeeping activities conducted by many other countries through UN missions such as protection of civilians and carrying out patrols in specific areas.

Self-Defense Force personnel will be allowed to use weapons as necessary for performing peacekeeping missions and ensuring their own safety. But the fundamental principle remains that they are forbidden to cause harm for reasons other than their legitimate self-defense or averting present danger.

KS: Are the Self-Defense Forces going to conduct peacekeeping activities other than those of UN missions based on the Five Principles of PKO Participation?

Kitagawa: Japan can now participate in activities similar to UN peacekeeping operations that are carried out by the international community but not specifically established by UN Security Council resolution, provided that they are legitimate under international law in terms of being based on a UN resolution, in response to requests from specified international organizations or in support of a [request made by a] principal organ of the UN. Yet, the participation would only be possible under strict conditions similar to the Five Principles of PKO Participation.

The Five Principles of PKO Participation:

1. The conclusion of a cease-fire agreement between parties in conflict.
2. Acceptance of peacekeeping troops by the parties in conflict.
3. Adherence to strict neutrality.
4. Participation may be suspended or terminated if any of the above conditions ceases to be satisfied.
5. Use of weapons is limited to the minimum necessary to protect the lives of SDF personnel.

Q & A

Q: Some are criticizing this, stating that the legislation would enable Japan to engage in war.

A: The use of force is limited to self-defense, upholding the current defense-only policy. It is baseless to say that the legislation turns Japan into a country that can go to war abroad.

The Cabinet Decision of July 1, 2014 has not changed the interpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution that prohibits the use of armed forces overseas, and upholds a defense-only policy, the central principle of the pacifist Constitution.

The Decision set forth the three new requirements that clarify the limits of self-defense measures in order to protect Japan. The Self-Defense Forces are allowed to use armed force only when Japan faces a gravely threatening situation equivalent to being under armed attack. The exercise of collective self-defense for the purpose of defending another country is not and will not be recognized.

When the PKO legislation was created in 1992, there was groundless criticism that Japan would become involved in war. As it lacked factual basis, such criticism soon died down, and today, the majority of the public support peacekeeping operations.

Q: Will Japan be able to provide support to the US military anywhere in the world?

A: The scope of support is limited by legitimacy under international law and Diet approval. Some critics state that the legislation could enable the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces to support the US military anywhere in the world. Such criticism disregards the purpose and intent of this support and the strictly defined conditions and procedures that have been established. There are two types of support provided to the US or other foreign militaries: one provided under the Important Influence Situations Law and the other under the International Peace Support Law, which will be enacted as a general, permanent legislation.

The Important Influence Situations Law applies to support provided to the US military engaged in activities to defend Japan. The purpose here is the peace and security of Japan.

The International Peace Support Law, on the other hand, applies to support provided to foreign militaries deployed to keep the peace and stability of the international community. This type of support is not for the United States, but only for those operations legitimized under international law by United Nations resolution. Japan would be making its contribution to the international community in this way.

In both cases, the Self-Defense Forces are allowed to provide logistical support only. They cannot exercise force. Moreover, their dispatch requires Diet approval. They would not be following after the US military everywhere as some critics say.