A committee under the Japanese prime minister has issued a report saying Japan should be allowed to exercise its right to "collective self-defense," meaning its troops could intervene to help its allies even when it is not directly attacked.
According to Japanese broadcaster NHK on Thursday, the committee under the national strategy council said, "In order to deepen cooperation in security guarantees with countries including the U.S. that share the same values, it is necessary to boost the value of Japan as a cooperative partner." It added, "Related interpretations [of laws] should be changed to allow collective defense, in order to uphold proactive pacifism in the long-term."
The council is headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and also includes the country's foreign and finance ministers, as well as the chairman of pro-business lobby Keidanren, Hiromasa Yonekura. Noda attended the latest meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Most countries assume a right to collective self-defense, which is authorized by the UN Charter. But in view of Japan’s responsibility for World War II, Article 9 of the Japanese constitution says the country "forever renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and use of force as a means of settling international disputes." The Japanese military is therefore called the Self-Defense Forces.
At present, the U.S. can intervene if Japan is attacked but not vice versa, which is why the Washington-Tokyo alliance is sometimes referred to as a "half" alliance.
But there are growing calls within Japan to assert its right to collective self-defense. The immediate reason is a growing sense of threat from China's rising military might together with the dispute over the Senkaku Islands, or Diaoyutai in Chinese. In order to keep China in check, Japan is strengthening military ties with the Philippines and Australia, but the lack of a right to collective self-defense makes it virtually impossible for Tokyo to boost its military alliances. Over the long term, Japan also wants to form military ties with Korea in order to keep China in check.
The U.S., which is cutting back on defense spending amid the economic slump, apparently wants Japan to play a more active military role. An investigative group within the U.S. Congress has concluded that the Japanese constitution is an obstacle to closer military ties.