Gov't to skip decision on collective self-defense by next spring

The government will put off a decision on whether to try to alter interpretations of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense until next spring, in light of the wariness of the New Komeito party, the junior coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, a government source said Saturday.

It is now expected to be difficult for the government to stipulate its policy of allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense in the new basic defense program when it is compiled by the end of the year.

The LDP and New Komeito, which had explored the timing of talks to narrow their differences on the matter, will also put off such meetings, the source said.

Given that New Komeito remains reluctant to change interpretations of the Constitution for the exercise of collective self-defense, a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the issue is "not an urgent matter."

The LDP-led government is expected to postpone a conclusion on the matter at least until its fiscal 2014 budget passes the ordinary Diet session which will be convened in January 2014.

Instead of seeking an early conclusion on altering interpretations of the pacifist Constitution, the government now aims to put priority on the enactment of a confidentiality bill that would impose tougher penalties on public servants who leak national secrets, the source said.

New Komeito plans to hold talks with the LDP on the exercise of the right of collective self-defense after Abe's panel of experts compiles a report on the issue.

Although the 14-member panel aims to draw up the report by the end of the year, discussions appear to be behind schedule. The panel is expected to urge the government to exercise the right of collective self-defense, enabling it to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack.