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Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Coalition agrees to DPJ demands on security bills


Staff writer

The ruling coalition agreed Tuesday to amend a set of government-sponsored war contingency bills in line with demands made by the Democratic Party of Japan, paving the way for their likely passage by the Lower House this week.

News photo
DPJ chief Naoto Kan (left) and secretary general Katsuya Okada attend a general assembly of party lawmakers to obtain endorsement for their amendment talks on war contingency bills.

The two sides formally confirmed the accord during a meeting between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and DPJ President Naoto Kan later in the evening.

"(The ruling alliance) has promised to respect the DPJ's demands as much as possible" in amending the government bills to include provisions aimed at protecting people's basic rights in emergency situations, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada told reporters upon emerging from talks with his coalition counterparts.

"I think we did a fairly good job (in the amendment talks with the coalition)."

If enacted, the bills defining the nation's response to enemy attacks will be the first such legislation for Japan since the end of World War II.

Pursuit of legislation of this kind has been politically taboo for decades, suffering under the shadow of Japan's past military aggression and the pacifist Constitution.

Following the talks with Kan, Koizumi hailed Tuesday's agreement as a "landmark development in Japan's political history."

"For decades, the nation's ruling parties and the opposition camp have been at odds over security matters, and it has long been taboo even to discuss what to do in cases of enemy attacks," he said. "I would like to offer my respect for the DPJ's responsible decision" to strike the compromise over the bills.

The bills would provide contingency guidelines for the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces in the event of an enemy attack. They would also give the prime minister greater powers in times of emergency.

The bills are now likely to be approved by a Lower House special panel on Wednesday and by the full lower chamber on Thursday. They are then expected to be enacted by the Upper House by the mid-June end of the current Diet session.

On Tuesday, the secretaries general of the ruling coalition -- which comprises the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party -- and the DPJ met to finalize talks aimed at amending the bills, which were originally submitted to the Diet more than a year ago.

New Komeito had vehemently opposed meeting the DPJ's demands that the bills feature more emphatic wording aimed at protecting people's basic rights in emergency situations.

But the coalition reportedly proposed Tuesday that a provision be added stating that the basic human rights guaranteed under the Constitution must be "respected as much as possible."

The coalition also agreed to add a supplementary provision to the bills under which it promises to study the creation of a new crisis and disaster management body. The DPJ has been calling for creation of a Japanese version of the Federal Emergency Management Agency of the United States.

For the DPJ, the issue of whether its members can unite on the sensitive war contingency legislation has been widely perceived as a gauge of its potential ability to govern.

The party, which comprises both conservative members and former Socialist lawmakers, has often failed to form a party consensus on key security issues.

Earlier in the day, DPJ leaders managed to win support from party ranks for its request to leave the final negotiations entirely up to four top executives -- Kan, Okada, policy chief Yukio Edano and security issue chief Seiji Maehara, who has overseen negotiations with his coalition counterparts in recent weeks.



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The Japan Times

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