The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jul. 5, 2010)
Deepen talks on security, constitutional revision
Japan is surrounded by security concerns including North Korea's nuclear missile development and its sinking of a South Korean naval patrol ship, China's military buildup, friction with neighboring countries and the threat of international terrorism.
Each political party must squarely face these situations and use the opportunity of the House of Councillors election to deepen discussions about the future of our country's security.
In its manifesto for the upper house poll, the Democratic Party of Japan has touted its intention to continue Japan's antipiracy activities and draw up, within this year, National Defense Program Guidelines and a midterm defense buildup program based on the international situation.
Each of these tasks must be performed as a matter of course. However, the manifesto of the DPJ is not entirely satisfactory, as it is the party in power and responsible for the country's security. The DPJ should at least present the general direction--specifically, what kind of National Defense Program Guidelines it will pursue.
DPJ election vows too abstract
The DPJ has mentioned its intention to review the five principles governing Japan's participation in peacekeeping operations, saying it "will discuss future international contributions of the Self-Defense Forces and civilians." However, the expression is abstract, making it difficult to understand what the party specifically means.
The Liberal Democratic Party's campaign pledges on national security policy go substantially deeper, stipulating for example the resumption of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. They also promise the establishment of a basic law on national security that would include a review of the government's interpretation of the Constitution concerning the right of collective self-defense, and the establishment of a permanent law on the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces overseas.
The direction in which the LDP is heading--strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and steadily fulfilling Japan's obligations as a member of international society--is correct.
However, it must be asked: Why did the LDP never actively work to develop the legislation when it was a ruling party? The LDP will not be able to gain the people's support if, as an opposition party, it so easily incorporates such items in its manifesto.
New Komeito's platform meshes international pacifism with action, while the People's New Party is calling for strengthening the nation's autonomous defense capability.
It is desirable that the ruling and opposition parties should have a common understanding of national security policy. We hope all the parties will engage in a more active debate on these matters.
Charter reform top LDP priority
Meanwhile, it is indispensible that national security policy be debated against the backdrop of constitutional revision.
It is worth noting the LDP gave top priority in its manifesto to activating the Deliberative Council on the Constitution in each chamber of the Diet to work, as well as submitting draft constitutional revisions to the legislature.
The PNP, the Sunrise Party of Japan and the New Renaissance Party also are favorably disposed toward revising the Constitution. New Komeito's campaign platform called for adding new clauses to the Constitution while maintaining the charter's existing provisions. The Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party oppose any constitutional amendment.
What we wonder is why the DPJ, which holds the reins of government, mentioned nothing about constitutional issues. In its manifesto for last year's House of Representatives election, the DPJ stipulated it would cautiously and positively discuss constitutional revisions, which is nonsensical. It can only be said the DPJ has backed away further from tackling the issue ahead of the impending upper house poll.
The DPJ's attitude, in which it avoids debate on the Constitution, is all the more irresponsible given that the National Referendum Law, which clarifies the procedures for implementing a special plebiscite to revise the Constitution, came into effect in May.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 4, 2010)