EDITORIAL: Isozaki’s views reflect the cowboy mind-set of Abe & Co.
Yosuke Isozaki’s controversial remarks about security legislation have become a major political issue, not simply because they were mouthed by a special adviser on national security to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Isozaki’s comments, which belittled the importance of legal stability, have raised questions about Abe’s responsibility for appointing this individual to the key security policy post and also about the administration’s overarching tendency to make light of the Constitution.
Talking about the package of government-drafted security bills now before the Upper House, Isozaki, in a July 26 speech, said: "What we have to think about is whether the measures are necessary to protect Japan. Legal stability has nothing to do with it."
Isozaki on Aug. 3 testified before an Upper House special committee on the security legislation as an unsworn witness.
He acknowledged that his remarks had been “inappropriate” and apologized, but refused to resign as adviser to the prime minister.
The unacceptable part of his testimony is his claim that his remarks produced a “big misunderstanding.” In a posting on his website dated July 19, before the speech in question, Isozaki said the following:
"It doesn’t serve the national interest to become preoccupied with making the formalist argument that (the security legislation) lacks legal stability with the traditional government interpretation of the Constitution when there have been significant changes in the international situation surrounding Japan.”
In this positing, too, Isozaki dismissed the argument for legal stability as a “formalist” view.
So there was no misunderstanding. This is what he truly thinks.
While he was an elite bureaucrat at the former home affairs ministry (now the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications), Isozaki, as a Cabinet counselor, was involved in the drafting of legislation to deal with security emergencies.
Then he entered politics by running successfully in an Upper House election as a candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Since he was appointed as an adviser to Abe, Isozaki has been working as a coordinator for the prime minister’s office to push the series of security policy initiatives.
Among security policy moves in which he has been involved are the establishment of the state secrets protection law, the change in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense under certain conditions and the drafting of the security legislation that recently cleared the Lower House.
In February, Isozaki, speaking as the secretary-general of the LDP’s headquarters for promoting constitutional amendments, said, “We are going to give the people a taste of constitutional amendments.” That comment also triggered public criticism.
Isozaki has been acting as a flag waver for Abe’s constitutional amendment agenda, so to speak.
Abe has cautioned members of his administration to “refrain from making remarks that arouse doubt.”
Given the depth of the relationship between Abe and Isozaki, however, what this adviser said cannot be dismissed simply as a gaffe by a close aide to the prime minister.
Senior LDP lawmakers have made remarks that indicate they are putting greater importance on security policy than on the Constitution. “The nation could fall into ruin while protecting the Constitution” is a typical refrain.
Remarks such as this, which is similar in essence to what Isozaki said, reflect a mind-set of treating the Constitution and legal stability lightly.
Isozaki’s words have underscored afresh an inherent lack of legal stability in the security legislation.
The administration has made a 180-degree change in the official interpretation of the Constitution with regard to whether Japan can exercise the right to collective self-defense, from “no” to “yes,” while stressing the qualifier “under certain circumstances.”
The administration has also exhibited a propensity to secure the government as much leeway as possible to make its own security policy decisions.
It is obvious that the security legislation lacks legal stability.
The blame for this serious flaw with the legislation should be borne by the prime minister himself and the entire ruling camp, including Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner.
Isozaki’s testimony as an unsworn witness before the Diet alone cannot put an end to this serious political problem.