With both Japan and the United States aiming to strengthen its alliance, sources say that the Japanese government is planning to discuss with the U.S. how the bilateral alliance should be restructured once the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation has been revised. Japan is likely to raise the point on whether the new guidelines would stipulate an expansion of its Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) activities.
In 2006 and 2007, during his first term, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe created an expert panel for the purpose of laying the legal foundations to ensure security. It was asked to look into the interpretation of its Constitution regarding the right to collective self-defense and the possibility of its revision. The panel’s report was a suggestion to change the interpretation. However, succeeding administrations shelved said report and continued to adopt the interpretation that the right to collective self-defense is allowed, but the country is prohibited from exercising the same.
Sources say that the panel’s discussion has been resumed and that they were to examine four possible scenarios when the Japanese government may invoke the right to collective self-defense. In two of the scenarios, the U.S. military will be directly involved: (1) where the SDF may repel any attack made on a U.S. Navy ship on high seas when there are joint exercises between the two nations, and (2) where it may intercept a missile that has the United States as its target. Some officials of the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry also want to expand the roles of the SDF forces in warning and surveillance matters, so as to effectively counter China’s increasing marine activities.