Call for upgrading Defense Agency is in conjunction with wartime legislation and collective self-defense

Conservatives are preparing to get a bill to upgrade the Defense Agency to a ministry discussed in the next extraordinary session of the Diet starting in late September.

The bill is already in the House of Representatives. It was introduced on June 28 by the Conservative Party secretary general, and supported by 21 parliamentary members including former Defense Agency directors generals. The bill was not discussed at all and has been carried over to the next Diet session.

In the July 29 House of Councilors election campaign, the Liberal Democratic Party called for the Defense Agency to be upgraded to a ministry as well as supporting wartime legislation. The Conservative Party, a ruling coalition partner, also called for the upgrade as one of its policy priorities.

Akahata of August 20 pointed out that the aim of the agency's reorganization is to enable the defense chief to make major defense proposals directly to the Cabinet. Currently, the Defense Agency director general can only make proposals at the Cabinet Meeting via the prime minister.

In November 2000, LDP Dietmembers founded a parliamentarians group to promote policies in favor of national defense-related interests. The declaration of its founding said that upgrading the Defense Agency is an important step to demonstrate that Japan's national defense posture is being given high priority.

The proposal for the Defense Agency's upgrading surfaced within the government soon after the agency was founded in 1954. The Ikeda Cabinet in 1964 tried to enact a bill to achieve it but stopped short of submitting it to the Diet because of public opposition and constitutional restrictions.

Akahata also pointed out that the aim of the present moves towards upgrading the Defense Agency can be understood in the context of the on-going process of strengthening the military alliance between Japan and the United States.

In the autumn session of the Diet, the Defense Agency is expected to submit bills to revise the Self-Defense Forces Law in order to allow the SDF to use weapons in their maritime and coastal defense activities.

The Defense Agency is now calling for a freeze on SDF participation in the main activities of U.N. peace-keeping operations to be lifted and for the five principles for Japan's participation in peace-keeping operation to be reviewed. Also, the agency is planning to submit bills on wartime legislation next year and change the government interpretation of the Constitution in regard to allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro has not ruled out the upgrading of the Defense Agency from his policy priorities. In May, he told the Diet that it is important for government to create an environment in which the people will look to the Self-Defense Forces respectfully. (end)