Abe calls on Diet to understand Japan's defense reforms

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday stepped up his efforts to win support for Japan's planned defense reforms, speaking before the Diet in intensive discussions that highlighted criticism from opposition parties of his position.

Abe underscored the need for Japan to strengthen its security alliance with the United States by lifting its self-imposed ban on the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the defense of an ally under armed attack even when Japan itself is not subject to the attack, an issue that has caused debate even within the ruling bloc.

"I want to establish a solid defense system that will help enhance our deterrent force and ensure we can protect people's lives and properties," Abe told a session of the House of Representatives' Budget Committee.

The lower house session is the first full deliberation in parliament since Abe received a proposal on using the right from a panel of experts earlier this month when he also held a press conference and expressed his desire to implement a set of defense reforms to ease some postwar restrictions on the Self-Defense Forces.

Abe cited as an example of envisioned collective defense an emergency in which the SDF protects U.S. military vessels transporting Japanese citizens from a third country in the event of an emergency.

And he said that under the current interpretation by the government of the nation's pacifist Constitution, such an activity is prohibited.

Exercising the collective self-defense right requires the government to change the interpretation.

Japan's current position is that it has the right under international law but cannot exercise it due to the limits imposed by the war-renouncing Constitution that bans the use of force to settle international disputes.