"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following the Cabinet Decision on the "Legislation for Peace and Security"

[Date] May 14, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Seventy years ago, we, the Japanese people, made a pledge: the tragedy of war must never again be repeated. We will continue to uphold this "pledge to never wage war again" into the future. We will secure the lives and peaceful daily lives of the Japanese people. Today, based on this determination, the Government made a Cabinet Decision on the "Legislation for Peace and Security" for ensuring the peace and security of Japan and the world.

We live in an era when no country can secure its own security only by itself. In the past two years, Japanese nationals have fallen victim to terrorism in Algeria, Syria, and Tunisia. Most of Japan is within the range of hundreds of North Korea's ballistic missiles. North Korea's development of nuclear weapons to be mounted on these missiles has increasingly grave implications. The number of "scrambles" by Self-Defense Force (SDF) aircraft responding to aircraft of unknown nationality approaching Japan has increased a staggering seven-fold in a decade. This is the reality. We must not avert our eyes from this harsh reality.

That is why I value diplomatic efforts through dialogues with neighboring countries. Since taking office as Prime Minister, I have been carrying out proactive diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map. Disputes of any kind shall be settled peacefully based on international law, not by force or coercion. I have reiterated those principles to the international community, and obtained support from many countries. In order to secure peace through diplomacy, I will continue to deploy proactive and peaceful diplomacy.

At the same time, we shall not fail to prepare for contingencies. I have thus been making efforts to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is the cornerstone of Japan's national security. My recent visit to the United States made the ties between Japan and the United States stronger than ever. If Japan is attacked, the U.S. Forces will spare no effort in defending it. The U.S. Forces are conducting timely and appropriate surveillance operations in waters near Japan in order to meet their commitments under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty.

Even if those U.S. Forces on duty to protect Japan are attacked, we cannot do anything, we will not do anything, unless Japan itself is attacked. That has been Japan's position to date. Does this really make sense?

It could pose a real danger to us if the U.S. Forces in waters near Japan are attacked. This is not someone else's problem, but a real threat to Japan. Our lives and peaceful daily lives are in clear danger. There is no other appropriate means available to repel the danger. In addition, the use of force is limited to the minimum extent necessary. These three stringent conditions are stipulated in the legislation bill. Moreover, it goes without saying that an approval by the Diet is necessary. The exercise of the right of collective self-defense will be permitted under very limited circumstances.

Even then, some of you might be vaguely concerned that Japan will be embroiled into every war being fought by the United States. Now I would like to state this very clearly to those with such concerns. That will never happen. This is written clearly in the new Japan-U.S. Guidelines for defense cooperation. Japan will use its force to protect its people. This is a shared recognition between Japan and the United States.

When Japan is in danger, the Japan-U.S. Alliance will function perfectly. Clear demonstration of this to the world will further enhance deterrence, and the chance of Japan being attacked will decrease even further.

As such, irresponsible labelling of this legislation as "war legislation" is completely misguided. On the contrary, the very purpose of this legislation is to enable seamless responses to any situations to secure the lives and peaceful daily lives of the Japanese people.

The existing principle of not, as a general rule, permitting the overseas deployment of the SDF remains unchanged. The SDF will never use its force in such combat as the Gulf War or the Iraq War. I would like to make this clear as well.

Meanwhile the SDF has engaged in international cooperation activities overseas for over 20 years, starting with mine sweeping in the Persian Gulf, which is Japan's main artery of oil transportation. At this moment, the SDF units are conducting supporting activities in newly independent South Sudan amid the scorching heat of Africa. Cambodia, once a beneficiary of Japan's reconstruction assistance, is also participating in PKO activities there.

I heard that the head of the Cambodian unit that runs a hospital there said to an SDF member in the field: "Japan's PKO activities in Cambodia are still fresh in the memories of Cambodians. Japanese are welcome to our hospital more than anyone. For Japanese, we are ready to provide treatment at all hours."

The activities of the SDF thus far have undoubtedly contributed to global peace, and they are hugely appreciated. I would like to express my deepest respect to the 50,000 SDF personnel for their dedicated efforts.

Given this outstanding record and experience, we have decided to revise the Act on Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (PKO Cooperation Act) and newly establish the International Peace Support Law. In doing so, we will further broaden the scope of Japan's international contribution. In addition, we will amend legislation to enable logistics supports to armed forces of foreign countries including the U.S. Forces which carry out activities for the peace and security of Japan.

However, the "use of force" (prohibited under the Constitution) will never be conducted in any such activities. Let me make that clear. These activities are all unrelated to the right of collective self-defense. Japan will join hands with the international community in areas in which Japan excels such as conflict prevention, humanitarian and reconstruction assistance, and fuel and food supply.

Our activities will not be limited to situations that have an important influence on Japan's peace and security. Japan is determined to contribute even more actively to global peace and stability under the banner of "Proactive Contribution to Peace."

Japan has followed the path of a peace-loving nation since the end of WWII. This has garnered significant praise from the world. We should be proud of the path we have followed. However, it was not realized by simply proclaiming the word "peace." I strongly believe that it is the fruit of the efforts of our forebears who adapted to the changes in the environment and then turned their wish for peace into action, such as establishing the SDF, revising the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and participating in international peace cooperation activities.

With action comes criticism. Such actions as the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the establishment of the PKO Cooperation Act almost always stirred up criticism that Japan would be entangled in war.

Nonetheless, our history to date proves that such criticisms were entirely misguided. With deep remorse over WWII, we have consistently upheld the "pledge to never wage war again" over the past 70 years. There are, and will be, no Japanese who wish for war. There is no doubt about that.

Let us be confident. Let us no longer turn a blind eye to the changes in the environment and remain idle. Rather, let us press forward with confidence and pass on a peaceful Japan to our children. I have resolved myself to take the lead in paving a way for a new era, together with the people of Japan, for the sake of the peace of Japan and the rest of the world.

I will end my opening statement here.


REPORTER: I am Enman with Asahi Shimbun, the coordinator of the press club. My question is as follows. According to media opinion polls, public opinion on the adopted security legislation bill decided by the Cabinet is divided. There seems to be a deep rooted sense of caution among the public.

Additionally, some of the opposition parties have voiced views against the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. They have also objected to your address to the Congress during your recent visit to the United States, where you announced the enactment of all necessary bills "by this coming summer."

How will you be addressing these opinions? For example, is there any possible option of revising the legislation bill during the upcoming Diet deliberations?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I stated moments ago, securing the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people is the most important responsibility of the Government.

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. To secure Japanese people's lives and peaceful livelihood under such an environment, it is essential that we develop legislation for peace and security to enable seamless preparations for any situations. I am certain of this.

For example, let us say, the United States, which is our ally and which has the necessary capabilities, is rescuing and transporting to Japan Japanese nationals who are trying to evacuate from a conflict overseas, and a U.S. ship carrying these Japanese people might be attacked in waters near Japan. Even in such a case, Japan cannot go rescue the U.S. ship unless Japan itself is attacked. Under the current legislation, Japan cannot protect the ship. Thus, it is not sufficient to secure Japanese people's lives and peaceful livelihood.

As I just stated, securing Japanese people's lives and happy livelihood is the most important responsibility of the Government. Therefore, the revision of the legislation is necessary for the Government to fulfill its responsibility.

Of course, it would be best if such situations did not occur; nevertheless, we must be prepared. We assume a major responsibility to do that.

Throughout the Diet deliberations, the Government will explain thoroughly, clearly and carefully that the development of the legislation is necessary precisely for these purposes.

In my recent address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, I stated that "we are determined to enact all necessary bills by this coming summer."

Since the general election in 2012, it has been my campaign pledge, as President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as well as the campaign pledge of the LDP, to develop the legislation for peace and security. We have consistently maintained this pledge in our campaign.

In particular, in the last general election, we campaigned on a clear platform that we would swiftly develop the legislation for peace and security in accordance with the Cabinet Decision of July 1 of last year, and we were tested by Japanese public opinion.

As you can see, this is completely different from executing a policy regarding which we did not make any statement before we assumed office.

This has been our campaign pledge in the past three election campaigns. Following the Cabinet Decision of July 1 of last year, we stated during the general election campaign that we would work to swiftly develop the legislation. At my press conference following the inauguration of the third Abe Cabinet after the general election on December 24, as you may probably recall, I clearly stated that I would work to enact the legislation for peace and security during this ordinary session of the Diet. I made myself clear to the Japanese people.

In addition, this February during the plenary session of the House of Representatives, I stated twice in response to questions that I would work to enact the legislation during the current session of the Diet. As such, in my address to the U.S. Congress, I simply reiterated what I have been saying all along.

This legislation that we will be submitting to the Diet is a product of 25 rounds of consultations among the ruling parties. It had been discussed among experts over a long period of time, and therefore, we consider our legislation bill the best. The Diet deliberations are set to be started, and the Government should refrain from commenting on matters and items related to the Diet. However, I would like to state that throughout the Diet deliberations, the Government will make efforts to gain the understanding of Diet members that the legislation for peace and security is necessary.

REPORTER: I am Adachi with TV Asahi. Your aim is to have the legislation enacted during the current session of the Diet as you just stated. Are there any specific activities in your mind in which the SDF may participate immediately following the enactment?

For instance, are you thinking of expanding the SDF's activities in PKO around the world in accordance with the revised legislation? Also, are you thinking of conducting joint activities with the United States while the United States is considering the deployment of its vessels and reconnaissance aircraft to the periphery of the island in the South China Sea on which China is unilaterally constructing a base?

As another concrete example, the global coalition to counter ISIL, which includes the United States, is conducting mopping-up operations against ISIL. Are you thinking of providing logistics support by the SDF for these operations?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I explained a short while ago, for example, in the case where a U.S. ship carrying Japanese nationals who are evacuating a country in a conflict is attacked, Japan cannot protect this ship. The new legislation is meant to change this situation.

In today's security environment, acts of terrorism, nuclear threats or missile attacks can easily cross national borders. We live in a time when no country can secure its own security only by itself. Under these circumstances, I strongly believe that working with the international community as well as our ally, the United States, to secure the peace and stability of Japan and the region will contribute to securing Japanese people's lives and peaceful livelihood.

With regard to PKO, in the case where another country's forces are working together with the SDF, are attacked and request the SDF to rescue them, we have not been able to respond to such requests so far. Also, in the case where the Japanese nationals whom the SDF is going to transport are being attacked by terrorists, the SDF cannot do anything to rescue them. The new legislation is meant to change these situations.

In this sense, the legislation is meant to secure Japanese people's lives and peaceful livelihood. The legislation is meant to prepare for these situations in case they occur. I would like to state first and foremost that the development of the legislation is not directly for sending the SDF on a particular mission.

I will take the example of PKO, which you cited. The legislation would enable the SDF to carry out necessary activities for PKO in a more efficient manner. In the case where the SDF is working near NGO members, most probably including Japanese nationals, if they request the SDF to rescue them, the SDF would be able to conduct the required rescue work under this legislation. I would like you to understand that the legislation would enhance the functions of the SDF for fulfilling its role in securing Japanese people's lives and participating in PKO activities. The legislation would not expand the scope of the SDF's activities into new areas. It would rather consolidate our firm posture, for example in securing the lives of Japanese people.

With regard to your question on the South China Sea, I am not aware of what you mentioned; therefore, I can make no comment.

As for ISIL, the SDF would not provide logistics supports for operations related to ISIL. I would like to make this clear. Japan's assistance thus far, such as food supply and medical assistance for refugees and displaced persons, is very much appreciated. Japan will continue to carry out such non-military activities.

REPORTER: I am Nishigaki with Fuji TV. I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to explain the aspects of the legislation that worry and concern the people.

Earlier, you stated that we should take pride in the path Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation throughout Japan's postwar history, and that the activities of the SDF personnel have made contributions to peace.

Ever since the SDF was established, no SDF personnel have become embroiled in war and died as a result, or no SDF personnel have used live ammunition in combat. This fact has earned both domestic and international support, underlying peace in Japan.

There is a concern that enacting the legislation for peace and security would put the SDF in great danger or at risk, as they would be sent to conduct operations in situations that would have an important influence on Japan's peace and security or they would have the right to use weapons for the purpose of executing missions. Could you please address such concerns?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Again, I would like to take the example of PKO missions. Let us consider the case where, while the SDF is carrying out PKO activities, Japanese NGO members who are engaging in medical activities near the SDF to improve the health of local children are in danger and request the SDF personnel to come and rescue them. Would it really make sense if the fully equipped SDF personnel did not go to rescue them? SDF personnel conduct rigorous training on a daily basis to carry out their task of securing Japanese people's lives and happy livelihood. The legislation will enable the SDF to further fulfill the task that it has been doing so far.

SDF personnel have always assumed dangerous tasks. There may be people under the impression that SDF personnel have never died in the line of duty. Since the SDF was established, however, 1,800 SDF personnel have died on various duties. As Prime Minister, I have attended the memorial services and met the families of those who have lost their lives. I will do anything possible not to lose any personnel in the line of duty. Not a single life should be lost anymore. Nonetheless, I would like Japanese people to have a greater understanding that even responses to natural disasters also entail dangerous tasks.

However, as I stated earlier, the security of SDF personnel must be ensured when they carry out their activities. The legislation would establish clear schemes to this end. For example, in the case of providing logistics supports, SDF personnel would not conduct activities in places where their security could not be secured. Should they be placed in danger, the SDF personnel conducting the activities would suspend their operations or evacuate.

SDF personnel engage in their work with pride as professionals who volunteered and took an oath of service to complete their duties, which might put themselves in danger. By developing highly specialized knowledge and repeatedly conducting rigorous training on a daily basis, the risks related to the execution of dangerous tasks have been mitigated as much as possible. This will remain unchanged.

REPORTER: I am Nakajima with Yomiuri Shimbun. You have consistently stated that security legislation needs to be developed as the international situation surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe and all possible preparations need to be made. What exactly are you referring to when you say "increasingly severe international situation"? Also, why do you consider that all possible preparations need to be made at this very moment in time? Do you consider that the legislation that was adopted as a Cabinet Decision today incorporates everything necessary for all possible preparations into the future?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I stated a short while ago, the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming ever more severe.

For example, most parts of Japan are within the range of North Korea's ballistic missiles. Furthermore, the actions of North Korea are difficult to predict. In addition, regrettably, a number of Japanese nationals have lost their lives to acts of terrorism.

It is now necessary to take seamless responses given that threats can easily cross national borders today. There is no question that thorough preparation for seamless responses and a fully functional alliance between Japan and the United States under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty would contribute to enhancing deterrence and to preventing situations from occurring in advance. If the Alliance were seen to have loopholes, it would seem that the coordination between the two countries is dysfunctional, that the Japan-U.S. Alliance does not function very smoothly, and that one plus one does not equal two. If the Alliance were to be perceived this way, it would increase the risk of attack and could become a destabilizing factor in the region. We need to eliminate such possibilities in advance. This is precisely for the sake of securing Japanese people's lives and happy livelihood.

In this sense, every detail from permitting the right of collective self-defense in a limited manner to gray-zone situations needs to be developed in this legislation. I believe that by doing so, risks of entanglement into a war, attacks on Japan and threats on Japanese people's lives will decrease.

REPORTER: I am Miyazaki with TV Tokyo. I would like to ask about defense spending.

Under the Abe administration, defense spending has increased every year as a result of the changes in the security arrangements. What is your view on the future trends in defense spending with the new legislation? At the same time, how do you intend to deal with the spending increase when you also have to achieve fiscal rehabilitation?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: For nearly 11 years, Japan consistently cut its defense spending. During this period, however, the security environment has become increasingly severe. What is defense spending for? Defense spending is for securing Japanese people's lives and happy livelihood. As I stated moments ago, fewer countries or people would attempt to attack a well-prepared country.

Therefore, for the first time in 11 years, the Abe administration increased defense spending which had been in continuous decline. Having said that, a part of this increase includes a rise in the consumption tax. Excluding that, the increased spending is 0.8%. At the end of 2013, the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY2014 and beyond, and the Medium Term Defense Program were adopted as Cabinet Decisions. The Medium Term Defense Program clearly sets out the five-year total defense spending, which was adopted by the Cabinet. I would like to state that defense spending itself will not increase or decrease as a result of the legislation.

As those who know defense spending well are aware, the ceiling of the five-year spending is decided in the Medium Term Defense Program. Any buildup of defense forces must be kept within this ceiling. This was already decided two years ago, and will remain unchanged

During the first Abe administration, the Defense Agency was upgraded to the Ministry of Defense. At that time, I received the same question. I was asked if defense spending would increase as a result of the upgrade of the Defense Agency. What happened? Defense spending continued to decrease thereafter. So similar to that occasion, we must make preparations irrespective of defense spending.