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.
(Q&A will be posted in due course)