Diet enacts laws to augment war-contingency measures

Legal codes map out response to military attack

Seven laws designed to supplement Japan’s war-contingency legislation were enacted Monday with the approval of the House of Councilors.

The new laws, which supplement a set of three laws enacted last June, effectively complete Japan’s first post-World War II legal codes to define the nation’s response to a military attack.

The government-proposed bills, which passed the House of Representatives on May 20, cleared the upper chamber with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, and the Democratic Party of Japan.

Two of the seven laws are intended to facilitate U.S. military operations in the event of an attack or imminent attack on Japan, and enable the Self-Defense Forces to supply provisions to the U.S. forces in peace time as well as during such an emergency.

The other five address emergency measures to cover the protection and evacuation of people, procedures for ship inspections in and around Japanese waters, the use of public facilities to deal with the situation, ensuring proper treatment of prisoners of war, banning restrictions on travel by foreign nationals and preventing the destruction of cultural assets.

After the government declares a state of emergency, Diet approval must be sought to evacuate citizens and take other measures, in line with an earlier revision of the legislation in response to demands by the DPJ.

The Constitution forbids Japan from starting a war. But lawmakers and government officials have for decades been calling for a legal framework that would allow a swift response to any military attack.

The laws also empower the prime minister to allow the U.S. military to use privately owned land or buildings if Japan comes under or anticipates an attack.

The SDF and U.S. forces in Japan will be able to share goods, including ammunition and services, in the event Japan comes under attack or an attack is anticipated.

Japan and the United States revised the bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement in late February so that the SDF and the U.S. military can share goods and services.

The new legislation is intended to give mutual support a domestic legal framework.

Before the revision of the agreement, the SDF and the U.S. military could provide logistic support on a reciprocal basis only during joint drills and international relief operations such as U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Port-call ban passed

The Diet enacted by a large majority on Monday a law to enable Japan to ban port calls by ships deemed to pose a security threat.

The law, specifically targeting North Korean vessels, serves as a second legal tool to pressure the reclusive state.

Government officials have denied that Tokyo has plans at the moment to impose sanctions on the North.

Tokyo has already been empowered to impose trade sanctions on North Korea under the revised Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, which removed a restriction that the measure be accompanied by a U.N. Security Council resolution.

The bill passed the House of Councilors with the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, its coalition partner, New Komeito, and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

The government will observe North Korea’s response to pending issues, including those related to its past abductions of Japanese citizens, before imposing the sanctions, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

“In terms of North Korea, it depends on how things develop toward resolving issues, including accounts on abduction victims,” Hosoda, the top government spokesman, said in a news conference.