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Friday, Oct. 19, 2007

Ruling bloc's MSDF bill rankles opposition in Diet


Staff writer

The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling coalition drew flak from the opposition camp Thursday as the bloc explained the details of the new antiterrorism bill to enable the Maritime Self-Defense Force to continue its Indian Ocean refueling operations.

Kenji Yamaoka, Diet affairs chief of the Democratic Party of Japan, slammed the bill, saying it was full of problems and does not reflect public opinion.

The new bill, a key goal for Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in the present extraordinary Diet session, is intended to replace the current special antiterrorism law, which expires Nov. 1.

Unlike the current legislation, which requires Diet approval to dispatch the MSDF, the new bill omits this condition. Instead, there needs to be Cabinet approval of an "implementation plan" that lays out the basic policies and reports any plan changes to the Diet.

With the Diet divided — the ruling bloc holding a large majority in the Lower House while the Upper House is under DPJ-led opposition control — the ruling bloc has been desperately seeking a way to continue the MSDF activities.

The ruling camp "knows that (it) won't be able to get Diet approval in the Upper House, in which the opposition parties hold a majority in accordance with the public's will," Yamaoka told a news conference. "That is why the Diet's approval was omitted. . . . (The bill) is one-sided and merely convenient" for the ruling coalition.

The government, backed by the ruling bloc, submitted the bill to the Diet Wednesday, and deliberations are set to start Tuesday.

But with the Nov. 1 expiry looming, the MSDF activities are almost certain to be suspended until the new bill is approved.

The current antiterrorism law was enacted soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The law has since been extended three times.



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