Japan criticizes New York Times editorial on Abe's defense policy

The Japanese government criticized The New York Times on Friday over a "significantly incorrect" editorial that said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would undermine Japan's democracy by reinterpreting the nation's pacifist Constitution.

The opinion of the newspaper "is based on a one-sided assessment and is significantly incorrect," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.

"We wish (the daily) would write about this after fully looking into" the Japanese government's position as well as domestic debate on whether to allow the nation to use the right to collective self-defense, the top government spokesman added.

Suga was referring to the ongoing debate on whether the government should change its interpretation of the pacifist Constitution to lift Japan's self-imposed ban on the exercise of the right to come to the defense of an ally under armed attack, as Abe aims to expand the country's role to contribute to global peace and security.

The New York Times wrote in its May 9 international edition that Abe "seeks to void Article 9 by having the government reinterpret the Constitution" because he recognizes it is "a very tall order" to revise the Constitution, a move that requires two-thirds approval in both chambers of parliament followed by a referendum.

Article 9 prohibits the country from using force to settle international disputes. The current government interpretation is that Japan has the right to collective self-defense under international law but cannot exercise it due to the limits imposed by Article 9.

Enabling the use of the right to collective self-defense through the change of constitutional interpretation "would completely undermine the democratic process," the paper said.

In addition to the government's protest, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae said in a contribution to the daily posted on its Thursday online edition that the editorial had failed to "take into account the reality and the tradition of democracy in Japan."

"Japan will reach a decision through the process of parliamentary democracy representing the will of our people in a free and open manner," the ambassador said.

"The Japanese, including Prime Minister Abe, believe in the spirit of Article 9 of the Constitution and have no intention of revising the war-renouncing charter," Sasae added.

Abe on Thursday announced his intention to enable Japan to engage in collective self-defense after receiving a proposal from a panel of experts.

"This effort will significantly strengthen the Japan-United States alliance," the ambassador said. "Parliament will be fully involved in the subsequent deliberations for appropriate legislation."