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Abe denies possibility of Japan participating in military campaign against IS

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks on as Katsuya Okada, head of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, bows after finishing his questioning as party leader in the Diet on Jan. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Jan. 26 rejected the possibility of Japan participating in a military campaign against the militant Islamic State (IS) group, indicating the country would limit itself to humanitarian support.

    "The government has absolutely no thoughts of taking part in a military campaign or providing logistical support. And this decision will remain unchanged for the foreseeable future," Abe said. His comments indicate that Japan is not prepared to send its Self-Defense Forces in any action against IS, but would limit itself to humanitarian support such as supplying food to refugees.

    Abe made the comments in response to questions on his recent policy speech from Katsuya Okada, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), during a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

    Regarding opposition between the central government and the Okinawa Prefectural Government over the planned relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture, Okada said the situation was "of extreme concern," and declared, "Construction should be called off." Abe replied, "The common perception between the government and the prefecture is that avenues for dialogue should not be closed."

    Abe's comments on the relocation follow the election of a candidate backed by his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Jan. 24 mayoral election in the Okinawa Prefecture city of Ginowan, the current location of the Futenma base.

    "We will steadily proceed with relocation to achieve a complete return of Futenma as soon as possible. We will continue efforts to win understanding," Abe said.

    Yorihisa Matsuno, head of the opposition Japan Innovation Party, requested that the LDP accept a report from a lower house electoral reform panel serving as an advisory body to the house speaker, which recommended that the number of seats in the lower chamber be cut by 10. Abe replied, "Each party, each parliamentary group, and of course our party, should respond to the public mandate by respecting this recommendation and achieving a solution at an early stage." On the possibility of dissolving the lower house, Abe said, "I am not considering that at all."

    Matsuno criticized as "unconvincing" a goal of increasing the country's gross domestic product (GDP) to 600 trillion yen as part of a bid to realize "a society in which all 100 million people can play an active role." In reply, Abe stated, "We will push up the potential rate of growth through full mobilization of all kinds of policies." He indicated that he would lay out a concrete path this spring for a "plan for activity for all of Japan's 100 million people."

    Regarding the possibility of constitutional reform, Abe suggested that he would call for public discussion, stating, "It is indispensable to have support not just from the ruling coalition, but from many parties and parliamentary groups, and to win public understanding." His reply was directed to Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of his own party.

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