Abe looks to lift Japan's ban on collective self-defense

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday he will aim to lift Japan's self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense following a proposal by a panel of experts made earlier in the day.

The government received the "proposal that we should be allowed to use the right to collective self-defense in a limited manner," Abe told a press conference. "We will study this proposal further."

Lifting the ban means Japan could exercise the right to come to the defense of an ally, such as the United States, if it were under armed attack and even if Japan itself were not subject to the attack.

As an example of exercising the right, Abe mentioned the possibility that the Self-Defense Forces would protect U.S. ships transporting Japanese citizens in an emergency.

He also said the government has been prompted to study the defense policy overhaul due to tensions such as territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, as well as threats of cyberattacks beyond national boundaries and concerns over North Korea's nuclear development.

"It's a common view in the world that peace cannot be maintained (with efforts) by a single country," Abe said, adding, "We must continue to study whether we can introduce sufficient legislation to protect Japanese people's lives, based on our current interpretation of the Constitution."

Engaging in collective self-defense would require the government to change its interpretation of the pacifist Constitution, a move that Abe's coalition partner remains reluctant to approve.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party will soon start discussions with its junior coalition partner, the New Komeito party, on the issue.

The premier stressed his Cabinet will not make any decision on implementing the necessary changes without approval from the ruling parties.

He said he has no intention to hold a parliamentary election to let voters judge on whether Japan should use the collective defense right. Abe underscored that defense policy reform is part of his efforts to meet the pledges his party made during the campaigns for the previous Diet elections in 2012 and last year.