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Abe: Mine sweeping in Hormuz OK under new rule

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan will be able to engage in mine-sweeping and other operations if three new self-imposed conditions for the use of force are met.

Abe was attending the first Diet debate after his Cabinet approved a reinterpretation of the Constitution to enable the country to exercise its collective self-defense right.

Masahiko Koumura, vice president of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, said Japan could take part in minesweeping operations if there is an obvious danger that puts the country's survival at risk, but it will not do so if the danger does not go that far. He asked Abe where the line is being drawn.

Abe said the Hormuz Strait in the Persian Gulf is an extremely important transport route from the standpoint of Japan's energy security.
He said that a conflict and mines in the region would amount to a considerable energy and economic crisis for Japan. Abe said the situation would pose a clear threat to Japan's survival and its people's lives, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Abe's Cabinet set three new conditions for the use of force in self-defense on July 1st. They are: the attack poses a clear danger to Japan's existence: there are no other means to deter the attack: the use of force is limited to the minimum.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada of the main opposition Democratic Party said to apply the three conditions to safeguard the Japan-US alliance is the same as setting no limits on the right to collective self-defense. Okada urged Abe to review the decision, saying that it's like giving the Cabinet a free hand, and the Diet cannot condone it.

Abe said the Japan-US alliance is crucially important and that emergencies within the scope of the treaty will likely meet the new conditions.

But he added that the conditions are not met automatically. The government will look at each case and consider the possibility it will develop into Japan's own problem, after assessing international developments.
Abe added that the Self-Defense Forces will be mobilized only after gaining approval from the Diet.

Jul. 14, 2014 - Updated 14:09 UTC