Abe hopes ruling bloc will advance debate on collective self-defense

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday expressed hope that the ruling bloc will have a thorough debate on whether Japan should remove its ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense.

"I will receive a report from a panel of security experts as early as this week and show the government's position, and plan to seek input from the ruling parties before deciding what to do next," said Abe, who is expected to announce Tokyo's policy stance this week.

"I'd like to ask the ruling parties to discuss (the issue) thoroughly," Abe said at a meeting attended by senior lawmakers from his Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party, the junior coalition partner.

The panel of experts handpicked by Abe is expected to propose that Japan lifts the long-standing ban and defends allies such as the United States when they come under attack in what is known as collective self-defense.

New Komeito remains cautious about Abe's push for reinterpreting the Constitution to allow the exercise of the right, and is wary of undermining Article 9 of the supreme law that has banned the use of force to settle international disputes.

Abe needs to get the backing of New Komeito to move forward with a series of envisaged legal changes to Japan's security policy, long bound by the U.S.-drafted pacifist Constitution that he and the LDP ultimately hope to amend.

New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told the meeting that his party is ready to start discussions with the LDP once the government clarifies its view on the issue.

"What's important here is to discuss how (Japan) should adjust to the changing international environment seriously, and gain public support," Yamaguchi told reporters after the meeting.

Japan has maintained it has the right to collective self-defense but cannot exercise it due to the constitutional constraints. China's growing assertiveness and North Korea's missile and nuclear ambitions have raised security concerns, bolstering the case for Abe to rework Japan's defense posture.