Japan has an innate right to defend itself: Abe advisor

Optimistic on TPP: Shinzo Abe advisor

Japan has an "innate right" to defend itself, a special advisor to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told CNBC on Monday, following steps taken last week to move the country away from its pacifist constitution.

Last week, Abe's 14-member advisory panel issued a report urging the government to revamp Japan's security policy by removing the long-standing ban on collective self-defense known as Article 9 of the constitution, which would mean Japan help its allies abroad. Abe vocalized his support for the reform.

However, critics are concerned about Abe's nationalistic agenda and that the reforms would raise the possibility of Japan waging war.

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"In this world no one nation – even the mightiest the U.S. – can defend itself alone, so you have to team up with other like-minded peers in order to defend yourself," Tomohiko Taniguchi, special advisor to Abe, told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box".

"What's being discussed is something that every nation in the world has an innate right. For historical reasons it's been only Japan that's banned the Japanese armed forces from getting involved in collective actions," he added.

The developments provoked a strong reaction from hedge fund manager Jim Chanos last week who told the Wall Street Journal that Abe was "the most dangerous figure in Asia." Chanos said that Abe's ultranationalist views would lead him to destabilize the area from a political and military view.

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National Defense Academy of Japan (NDA) cadets march to class at the NDA campus in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, on Monday, April 21, 2014.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

But Taniguchi dismissed the comments as outdated.

"Shinzo Abe has committed to convincing some of the concerned parties that he is committed to a pacifist trajectory in Japan. If you look at the past reputation of Japan this is the only country for the last seven years that has not shot a single bullet overseas, and that reputation is something that Shinzo Abe and any others in Japanese politics have taken very seriously," he added.

Some industry watchers are concerned that a change in Japan's defense policy could exacerbate tensions between the country and neighboring China over territory in the East China Sea, especially given that China has been increasingly asserting itself in the region lately. Earlier this month China moved an oil rig into waters over which China and Vietnam have contesting claims, provoking riots in Southern Vietnam.

Taniguchi said it was difficult to assess how China would react to any changes in their security policy, adding that he hoped the reforms would lead to a more peaceful outcome rather than creating more conflict.

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"One can hope that the South China Sea and East China Sea are going to be more peaceful places if Japan has succeeded on having another interpretation of the collective self-defense," he said.

"The most important thing for Japan and others is to have deterrence capacity so that some of the nations can act according to the internationally accepted norms and international law," he added.

Taniguchi also gave his view on latest progress towards the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a free trade agreement under negotiation by 12 countries, aiming to eliminate trade barriers between countries and boost global trade.

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Japan's involvement has met opposition domestically, as some sectors of industry are concerned about being left unprotected to the threat of foreign competition.

"I think we should be more optimistic than before, because at the end of last week there were dozens of hours [worth of] negotiations between U.S. and Japan, and what's important is that the leaders of the two nations… both agreed that they should give tractions together to the negotiating process," he added.