Defense draft urges SDF upgrade

Kan team pushes for ability to deal with more than one crisis at a time

Kyodo News

The Self-Defense Forces need to enhance their capabilities to respond effectively to multiple emergencies, an advisory panel for Prime Minister Naoto Kan says, while calling for relaxing Japan’s decades-long nonnuclear principles and arms embargo rules.

A copy of the panel’s draft report, which was made available Wednesday, contains proposals on the key defense and national security agenda. The final report will serve as the basis for the government to set its defense policy guidelines for the year from next April and beyond.

The draft report refers to the possibility that in the event hostilities erupt near its territory, Japan could be exposed to missile attacks or battles on one of its remote islands while SDF troops are providing support for U.S. forces.

The draft also warns of possible simultaneous terrorist attacks on domestic facilities or acts of cyberterrorism targeting key governmental entities.

Japan “needs to draw up capabilities” effective enough to cope with such multiple crises and manage built-up defenses properly, according to the report.

The draft thus seeks a comprehensive review of the Cold War-era defense concept, which was set in the mid-1970s and depends on U.S. nuclear deterrence while giving the SDF a very limited role in self-defense.

The panel describes this policy as “no longer efficient” and “a thing of the past.”

But it argues the U.S. nuclear umbrella is necessary in light of the need to maintain security not only in Japan but throughout Northeast Asia, adding this idea is “not contradictory to the ultimate goal” of abolishing nuclear weapons.

As for Japan’s three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, producing or allowing nuclear arms on its territory, the panel says the most important thing is preventing nuclear states from using their atomic weapons and it is not prudent for Tokyo to stick to these principles just for the purpose of “keeping the United States shackled.”

Japan also has a policy of not exporting weapons or arms technology in principle, dating back to the 1960s, when a ban was placed on weapons exports to communist states, countries to which the United Nations bans such exports and parties to international conflicts.

Because of the bilateral security pact, Japan has excluded exports of arms technology to the United States.

Calling for reconsideration of the current export ban, the draft report says the arms embargo has prevented the domestic defense industry from having access to technological development, potentially making it lag behind foreign rivals in the race for defense business.

The report also calls on the government to discuss whether Japan should be able to exercise its right to collective self-defense, suggesting legal interpretations and operational systems have to be changed flexibly from a national interest standpoint.

Tokyo maintains the position that although Japan has the right to collective defense, it cannot exercise it due to constraints under the Constitution.

The draft report also urges the government to consider possessing missiles capable of attacking foreign territory.

The panel’s report is due to be submitted to Kan early next month. Based on the report, the Cabinet is expected to endorse by the end of the year the defense policy guidelines for fiscal 2011 and beyond as well as the midterm defense buildup program.