Japan Govt seeking expansion of defense force role

JAPAN - The government plans to discuss with the United States how the nations' bilateral alliance should be reshaped if Japan changes its interpretation of the Constitution concerning the nation's right to collective self-defence, according to sources.

The issue will be discussed in parallel with the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-US Defence Cooperation, both of which are aimed at strengthening the Japan-US alliance.

In particular, the government wants to sound out Washington on whether the new guidelines should stipulate an expansion of Self-Defence Forces' activities, such as having the SDF repel potential armed attacks on US vessels during joint exercises and other cooperative activities. This would be possible if Japan were allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defence.

Tokyo and Washington are scheduled to begin discussions on revising the defence cooperation guidelines Thursday at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo. Division chief-level officials will take part in the talks.

The two governments will discuss revising the guidelines with China's military buildup in mind. The discussions are expected to take at least a year, about the same time it took to draw up the latest version of the guidelines in 1997.

Past Japanese administrations have interpreted the Constitution as allowing the right to collective self-defence, but prohibiting the nation from exercising it.

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