Coalition official cautions against Abe's push over defense policy

A senior official of New Komeito, the junior partner in Japan's governing coalition, on Thursday cautioned against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand the role of the country's defense forces, stopping short of ruling out that the party could leave the government.

Yoshio Urushibara, New Komeito's parliamentary affairs chief, did not dismiss the possibility of the party pulling out from the coalition if a conflict with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party deepens over the right to collective self-defense.

"Chief Representative Natsuo Yamaguchi has never said we will never leave the coalition," Urushibara said on a BS11 program, referring to the party leader.

Urushibara later told reporters in Tokyo, "Although there is a difference (in view) between the political parties, we can certainly overcome that gap."

On the program, Urushibara questioned Abe's argument that enabling Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense is intended to protect the lives of the Japanese people.

"The right to collective self-defense is aimed at supporting an ally," Urushibara said. "It's slightly different from protecting the Japanese people."

Urushibara also held in check Abe's hope to have Cabinet approval for lifting the ban on exercising the right by reinterpreting the Constitution by the end of the year. "We should have enough deliberation to gain the understanding of people," he said.