Japan joint defense plan with U.S. considered

The government may draw up de facto rules of engagement so the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military can jointly repel an attack on Japan, a senior Defense Agency official told the Diet on June 12.

Masahiro Akiyama, head of the Defense Policy Bureau, made the remark in a session of the Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was deliberating the review of the 1978 Guidelines for Japan and U.S. Defense Cooperation. An interim report for the review, made public June 8, states the need for joint military operations from the early stages of an attack on Japan. In the 1978 scenario, Japan was to repel limited and small-scale attacks on its own. But the interim report calls for joint operations.

Akita said the government wants to work out rules for operations that will be carried out jointly by Japanese and American forces, although he did not label this idea as joint rules of engagement. But the official denied the possibility that Japan and the U.S. will jointly set up staff offices for military operations. “The SDF and the U.S. force are separate organizations and have separate chains of command,” he said. “We are not considering integrating the chains of command.”

Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda hinted that some form of cooperation between Japan and the U.S. will be pursued if situations develop in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. These areas are not covered by the guidelines.

Asked whether the Taiwan Straits will be included in areas to be covered by the guidelines, Ikeda said only that the review of the guidelines is not targeted at any particular country or area.