Japan on Tuesday resumed discussions on whether to lift a self-imposed ban on the right of collective self-defense in the face of security threats posed by China's maritime assertiveness and North Korea's nuclear ambitions.
After a seven-month hiatus, a panel of experts gathered at the prime minister's office to consider which country under armed attack Japan would defend and where the Self-Defense Forces could be dispatched overseas for that purpose.
The focus will also be on whether the SDF should be allowed to take part in U.N.-led collective security operations, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said Japan needs to take on a greater security role and pursue what he describes as "an active pacifism" to ensure global peace and stability.
Under the government's current interpretation of the Constitution, Japan is not allowed to use the right of collective self-defense, or coming to the defense of an ally under armed attack, given the war-renouncing Article 9. It bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
After taking office in December, Abe resumed the government panel, saying that the security environment around Japan has become "all the more severe."
With much of his popularity stemming from his "Abenomics" packages, his push for controversial policies such as amending the pacifist Constitution took a back seat until after the July upper house election that gave his Liberal Democratic Party a landslide victory.
The 14-member panel is expected to propose in its final report by the end of the year that Japan should be allowed to exercise the right of collective self-defense, setting the stage for the government to change the constitutional interpretation after gaining crucial support from the New Komeito party, the LDP's coalition partner.
In 2008, the same members on a similar panel launched by Abe during his first term in office proposed that Japan should be allowed to use the right on certain conditions -- when defending U.S. vessels attacked on the high seas, and intercepting ballistic missiles targeting U.S. soil.