TOKYO (YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Japanese government's current interpretation of the Constitution limits the scope of activities allowed under the country's right of collective self-defence, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday.
Japan "would have to amend the Constitution" if it wants to exercise the right as other countries do, Abe told a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting.
Abe reiterated plans to submit defence policy-related bills, including legislation needed for exercising the right, as a package to an ordinary Diet session next year.
Earlier this month, the Abe government adopted a reinterpretation of the Constitution to enable the country to exercise its right of collective self-defence.
The proposed bills also include legislation aimed at helping Japan improve its handling of so-called grey-zone situations, or emergencies that do not involve military attacks.
Abe also said that Japan can carry out minesweeping operations in sea-lanes, including in the Middle East, before a ceasefire is in place if the conditions for exercising the right of self-defense are met.
Global oil supply shortages caused by such mines "may threaten the existence of Japan and undermine the lives of the Japanese people and their right to pursue freedom and happiness," Abe said.
The government will make a comprehensive judgment on minesweeping operations after assessing prices and supply conditions for crude oil and gas as well as the effects on the domestic economy, the prime minister added.
Japan would be able to continue such minesweeping operations even after they later become collective security measures under a UN resolution, he said.
Although minesweeping before a cease-fire is called is regarded as use of force under international law, the operations are passive and limited and have never led to large battles, Abe pointed out, stressing that the operations would be limited to the minimum scale necessary.
When the government considers whether a particular situation meets the conditions for exercising the right of collective self-defence, it will look at the probability of Japan being affected by war and the seriousness of the damage that the Japanese people may suffer, Abe also said.
Abe brushed aside opposition criticism that there has been little Diet debate on collective self-defence. The matter has been repeatedly talked about in the Diet since March, and the criticism is groundless, he said.