JAPAN
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Shinzo Abe

Japan Prime Minister Abe to ‘study’ whether dual nationals can hold top government positions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 1:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2016, 2:02pm

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that he wants to study the issues presented by the possibility of dual nationals serving as Cabinet ministers or in other high-ranking government positions, amid controversy after two lawmakers admitted to holding foreign citizenship.

It’s natural to choose the appropriate people to deal with state secrets and diplomatic negotiations
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

“We must figure out what is at issue,” Abe said in a House of Councillors budgetary committee session, without specifying what he will do next.

Japan’s diplomats are forbidden by law from holding foreign citizenship, but there are no such rules for Cabinet ministers, Self-Defence Forces personnel or police officers, who are required only to prove their Japanese citizenship.

Heated debate has followed the admission by main opposition Democratic Party leader Renho last month that she had retained, apparently unknowingly, Taiwanese nationality obtained through her father. Renho was born in Japan prior to a law change granting citizenship to children of Japanese mothers.

Kimi Onoda, an upper house lawmaker with Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, admitted on Tuesday to retaining US citizenship and said she has begun the procedure of renouncing it.

“It’s natural to choose the appropriate people to deal with state secrets and diplomatic negotiations, but there is a possibility of things not operating that way,” Abe said.

Abe made the remarks in response to a question from LDP lawmaker Haruko Arimura, who pointed out that a dual national had worked in the highly secret environment of the prime minister’s office, apparently referring to Renho’s term as a prime ministerial aide during the Democratic Party of Japan’s 2009-2012 turn at power.

Defence Minister Tomomi Inada told the session that the ministry plans to investigate whether any SDF personnel hold dual nationality, citing a need to evaluate whether they could be influenced by foreign intelligence agencies. Dual nationality is discouraged but not penalised in practice by Japanese law, which requires those who choose to remain Japanese nationals after turning 22 to make efforts to relinquish their other nationality.