Komeito to begin security discussions in earnest

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi

Komeito will begin full-scale discussions this week ahead of revisions to three documents related to defense matters, including the National Security Strategy.

The focus will be on how to adjust the party’s previously cautious view on possessing counterattack capabilities in light of the increasingly tense situation in Taiwan and other factors.

The party hopes to reflect its stance in the revisions scheduled for the end of the year through consultations with its ruling coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party.

At a press conference Friday, Secretary General Keiichi Ishii said, “We would like to discuss the content of the documents so that they will solidify our preparations for the defense of our country.”

Talks are expected to be held during the extraordinary Diet session in the fall, and the party intends to finalize its position by then.

The party’s foreign affairs and security committee, which will start discussions on Wednesday and Thursday, will hold hearings with experts and the Defense Ministry.

The biggest point of contention will be the handling of counterattack capabilities to attack enemy missile launching sites and other facilities for self-defense purposes.

The government is considering revising the three documents to include the possession of counterattack capabilities by the Self-Defense Forces, aiming at strengthening deterrence against the development of missile technology by China and North Korea.

Komeito has traditionally been reluctant to allow for the possession of a counterattack capability.

In 2020, during the administration of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi made clear his cautious stance, saying, “Is it necessary to change what the government has consistently said for many years, that it would not possess [counterstrike capabilities]?”

Some Komeito members have recently started to express their approval for possessing such capabilities. The party’s vice representative, Kazuo Kitagawa, has said, “I would not recognize it as an entirely bad idea.”

This is due to the growing interest among the party’s supporters in strengthening Japan’s defense capabilities in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the escalating tensions in Taiwan.

Regarding the cabinet decision in 2014 to approve limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense, Komeito insisted during two-party talks that the approval be limited to cases in which people’s rights are “fundamentally overturned,” among others. “Also in the talks about counterattack capabilities, we would like to call for restraint and find common ground,” a Komeito senior official said.

The size of the increase in defense spending and the question of financial resources will also be an issue.

Some members of the LDP, particularly those who were close to Abe, have been advocating the issuance of government bonds.

In response, Yamaguchi said: “Government bonds are debt and will remain so afterward. We should not be so quick to rely on them.”

With the death of Abe, who led the debate on strengthening defense, a mid-level member within the LDP said, “There is a possibility that a course correction from the ‘Abe track’ will be made.”

Komeito will keep a close eye on the debate within the LDP as it searches for common ground.