Japan lawmakers visit U.S. entities handling state secrets

A nonpartisan group of Japanese lawmakers on Friday visited U.S. entities that oversee the handling of classified material to gather information for the establishment of a parliamentary panel on state secrets.

The Japanese lawmakers came to the United States after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling bloc enacted a new secrecy law in December without ensuring a system in which parliament can thoroughly check the validity of the law's implementation.

Before the United States, the group led by Gen Nakatani, a veteran from Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, visited Germany and Britain to meet with legislators involved in parliamentary panels monitoring state secrets in each country.

"I hope we can map out a plan to set up a monitoring panel before the law takes effect" by the end of this year, drawing on the knowledge the lawmakers gained on the three-nation trip, Nakatani told a press conference in Washington.

The Japanese lawmakers visited U.S. entities involved in work to classify and declassify government information such as the Information Security Oversight Office and the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel.

Nakatani and other members of the group said they were aware of the need to set up a panel considering matters such as whether the government designation of state secrets is reasonable and potential whistleblowers can be protected.

The Japanese delegation included parliamentarians of the LDP's rival, the Democratic Party of Japan, as well as the tiny opposition Japanese Communist Party.

The secrecy law will take effect within a year of its promulgation on Dec. 13 last year.

Abe's government has been under fire over the law as his ruling bloc steamrolled the bill through parliament amid a spate of criticism that there were too many questions about how to prevent potential abuses of power in the name of protection of state secrets.

Abe has said Japan needed the law as soon as possible to encourage the United States and other allies to share more sensitive intelligence.