Cabinet OKs multinational force role

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The Cabinet on Friday endorsed the government’s decision to have the Self-Defense Forces participate in a U.S.-led multinational force that will be formed in Iraq after the June 30 handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

But the decision drew flak from opposition lawmakers later in the day at a special House of Representatives session convened to discuss the issue. The ordinary session adjourned Wednesday.

The government insisted that SDF troops, currently engaged in a humanitarian mission in Samawah, southern Iraq, would merely continue with the same operations despite their membership in the U.S.-led force.

Opposition lawmakers argued that the decision would expand the scope of the SDF’s activities overseas by stretching too far the government’s official view of what the forces are able to do under the war-renouncing Constitution.

“The government does not have such an intention,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told a news conference Friday.

But he did not explain how the government will ensure that the SDF does not move beyond the framework of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from using force as a means of settling international disputes.

During the Diet session, opposition lawmakers demanded that the government disclose documents showing how the U.S. and Britain agreed — as the government has claimed — to Japan’s policy of not putting the SDF under the command of the multinational force.

The U.N. Security Council resolution upon which the multinational force will be based stipulates that the multinational force will be “under unified command.”

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi refused to disclose documents pertaining to this agreement, stating only that the two countries have agreed that the SDF may carry out activities under Japan’s own chain of command.

Earlier in the day, Defense Agency chief Shigeru Ishiba told a news conference that the government will not specifically disclose what the Air Self-Defense Force is carrying on its transport airplanes to help other countries in the multinational force.

Opposition lawmakers argued that the transport of weapons and ammunition for armed forces of other countries could be regarded as part of their combat operations and thus violate the Constitution. But Ishiba said he regularly checks the contents of loads so that the ASDF does not violate the Constitution.