Japan is preparing to set up its own National Security Council, a move that could pave the way for the pacifist nation to expand its role in regional security.
The council will be modeled after the United States’ NSC and will come under the prime minister’s office to expand its functions in drawing up security policy and gathering intelligence.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe introduced the plan to beef up Japan’s defense and security amid China’s rising military assertiveness and North Korea’s unprecedented nuclear ambitions.
It is also seen as a significant step away from the nation’s postwar constitution that binds Japan to a self-defense role.
“As the security environment surrounding our nation becomes increasingly challenging, the establishment of a National Security Council is absolutely imperative to strengthen the command functions of the prime minister’s office on foreign and security policies,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament in October.
He is hoping the bill to establish the Japanese NSC would pass the nations’ parliament. The NSC bill has already been passed by the lower chamber and is expected to gain upper house approval later this month.
Abe has long been pushing to reinterpret the nation’s pacifist constitution and lift the self-imposed ban on exercising the right to “collective self-defense,” or the right to aid allies during attacks.
Once the NSC is established, the prime minister will meet regularly with the chief cabinet secretary as well as foreign and defense ministers to discuss security issues. Through the NSC, the prime minister could decide point-blank on various issues involving national defense, such as foreign military attacks and other serious emergencies.
The planned NSC will also be responsible for sharing intelligence with counterparts in other nations, including its key ally Washington.
But it has also drawn criticism over fears that the state-secrecy bill, which goes hand-in-hand with the draft legislation, could infringe on journalistic freedom and the public’s right to information.
The bill toughens penalties against those who leak sensitive information related to defense, foreign policy, terrorism and other harmful activities.
This comes after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked classified US intelligence information.
By Maesie Bertumen