Tags: US | Shinzo Abe | Japan | Self-Defense Forces | rearmament

Abe Leading Japan to 'New Guidelines' to Assist US Forces in Attack

By Wednesday, 29 April 2015 09:22 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined President Barack Obama Tuesday for private talks, a joint press conference and a state dinner that evening, his government was quietly headed toward what officials called "new guidelines" under which Japan could give far greater assistance to U.S. forces if they came under attack in the Pacific.

Also very likely to be pursued by the Abe government — but probably not in the immediate future, government sources told us — is the prime minister's long-stated (and controversial) vision of amending Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution to permit its Self-Defense Forces to become a full-fledged  military.

For now, the focus between Washington and Tokyo is changing present guidelines in Japanese law that actually restrict Japanese forces from assisting American forces if they came under attack.

"A good example of this would be if an American ship in the Pacific were suddenly attacked by hostile missiles," Yasuhisa Kawamura, director-general for press and public diplomacy for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Newsmax. "Under the present arrangement, Japan would not be permitted to come to the aid of the U.S. vessels if they came under attack, even though Japan has the ability to do so.

"But under the new guidelines, Japan would be now able to do so."

On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter discussed conditions for greater U.S-Japan cooperation on defense with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.

With agreement on revising the restrictive guidelines by the U.S. and Japanese Cabinet officials this week, it is expected that defense-related bills to ensure the new guidelines will be introduced in the Diet (parliament) in the current session.

Simple legislation rather than a change in the constitution is what is required to provide, in Kawamura's words, "new guidelines to meet with new challenges."

Abe-watchers voice certainty to us of anticipation that, further down the line, the prime minister and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will begin the process of changing the constitution to permit a rearmed Japan.         
Any constitutional change must begin within the Diet and have approval of two thirds of both its houses: the House of Representatives (lower) and the House of Councilors (upper). That would have to be followed by a national referendum on the change, with a simple majority of the voters required for approval.

As Abe himself admitted to "Foreign Affairs" in 2013: "To amend the constitution requires overcoming a high hurdle."
Sources close to the government expect that the proposed change regarding the nature of the military would probably begin within the Diet sometime this year.

For Abe, mutual security with the U.S. is something that he has had a uniquely personal relationship with for most of his life. At his joint news conference with President Obama on Tuesday, he recalled the 55-year-old "Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation with the United States and Japan." Under the treaty, which is commonly referred by the Japanese acronym "ANPO," the U.S. and Japan are required to meet common danger and thus a U.S. military presence in Japan is authorized.

"In 1960, when we revised the security treaty," Abe said, "some people said that we would be involved in wars of the United States, and that was the core of the criticism which was aired then.

"It's been 55 years since then. This criticism has been proved totally wrong, and that is very clear and evident. History has proved this. Our choice made at the time was to revise the security treaty. And in case Japan suffers from aggression between Japan and the United States, we would respond through cooperation."

Widespread demonstrations in Japan against that treaty helped force from office the prime minister who was its principle supporter: Nobosuke Kishi, Abe's grandfather.

Family legend holds that the 6-year-old Abe, while playing at his grandfather's official residence, heard demonstrators chanting: "Down With ANPO!" When Abe himself began repeating "Down with ANPO!" Kishi reportedly took the boy aside, patiently explained the treaty, and got him to say: "ANPO is good."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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Shinzo Abe's government is quietly headed toward what officials called "new guidelines" under which Japan could give far greater assistance to U.S. forces if they came under attack in the Pacific.
US, Shinzo Abe, Japan, Self-Defense Forces, rearmament
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 09:22 AM
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