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Japan should lift collective defense ban: panel

TOKYO--A government panel will urge Japan to allow its military to help allies that come under attack, in a major reversal of the country's ban on collective defense under its pacifist constitution.

The panel on Tuesday discussed ways that Japan can improve its defense capability and said it will present its near-final draft recommendation in coming weeks.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants Japan to play a greater role in international peacekeeping and step up its defense posture, citing potential military threats from China and North Korea.

The 14-member panel, headed by former Ambassador to the U.S. Shunji Yanai, says the revision is possible if the government alters its current interpretation of the war-renouncing constitution. Formal constitutional change involves high hurdles, though Abe eventually hopes to achieve that.

The constitution, written under U.S. direction after World War II, says the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation” and that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” The government has interpreted those clauses as meaning that Japan cannot possess offensive military weapons such as ICBMs or long-range strategic bombers.

Abe and other supporters of the change believe that restrictions should be removed from the military, and that Japan's current self-defense-only policy is inadequate as the region's security environment becomes more challenging. They say there may be instances in which Japanese troops have to fight for allies during international peacekeeping missions, even when Japan is not attacked directly.

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