Minesweeping may be mulled under collective defense criteria: Abe

Self-Defense Forces' participation in minesweeping operations in international sea lanes should be considered under a newly proposed set of conditions for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday.

The issue of taking part in such minesweeping "should naturally be discussed (under the conditions)," Abe said in Sakaiminato, Tottori Prefecture, referring to the three conditions that his Liberal Democratic Party presented to its coalition partner New Komeito party on Friday in their ongoing talks on security policy.

"Oil and food supply from overseas is vital for resources-scarce Japan," said Abe, who visited the western Japanese prefecture to inspect local efforts to revitalize the regional economy.

The SDF participation in multilateral minesweeping operations in international sea lanes, which are crucial for Japan in securing stable imports, has been cited by the government in recently unveiled specific scenarios of possible security threats that could be dealt with through Japan's exercise of collective self-defense right.

Japan has long maintained it has the right but cannot exercise it due to Article 9 of the Constitution that bans the use of force to settle international disputes.

The Abe administration is trying to lift the self-imposed ban by reinterpreting the past governments' constitutional interpretation.

Under the three-point criteria presented by the LDP to New Komeito, Japan would be allowed to exercise the right if "the country's existence, the lives of the people, their freedoms, and the right to seek happiness are feared to be profoundly threatened because of an armed attack on Japan or other countries."

The second condition is that no other appropriate means exist to repel aggression and protect the rights of Japanese people, while the third requires the use of armed strength to be kept to the minimum necessary.

The ruling camp has yet to agree on the new set of conditions, with New Komeito still saying they are "not satisfactory."

LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba Saturday echoed Abe's view on minesweeping operations. Ishiba, speaking to reporters in Hiroshima, western Japan, said he thinks all of the scenarios for Japan's exercise of collective self-defense right could be dealt with under the proposed three conditions.

The SDF could cope with the scenarios including minesweeping operations "if the lives of the people are feared to be profoundly threatened (as set forth under the conditions)," Ishiba said.