SDF U.N. units may get nod to aid defense

JIJI

The government plans to allow Self-Defense Forces elements engaged in U.N.-sponsored peacekeeping operations to defend foreign troops also participating in such missions should they come under attack, sources said.

In a bill to revise the law on cooperation in peacekeeping operations, the government plans to relax curbs on weapons use to allow SDP contingents to support foreign peacekeepers who come under attack, but only if the attackers are not government troops of the nation where such missions are taking place.

Under the current principles for SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions, the forces’ use of weapons is limited to the minimum needed for their own self-protection. The existing law does not allow SDF use of weapons to defend foreign troops, as this could infringe on the Constitution’s Article 9.

But the government believes eased weapons use is needed to bring the activities of SDF peacekeepers in line with international standards. Experts have also noted that if SDF peacekeepers do nothing to help their foreign counterparts under attack, this would draw a harsh global backlash.

The bill that the government plans to submit to the current Diet session will not change the constitutional interpretation but would allow SDF elements to fire their weapons at attackers of other peacekeepers, if it is determined that they are not government or similar forces from the area where the mission is taking place.

The revision is still expected to spark constitutional debate, however. The relaxed curbs also may pose practical difficulties, such as ascertaining if forces attacking foreign counterparts are not those of a national entity.

The government initially intended not to include it in the planned bill due to persistent caution inside both the ruling and opposition blocs. Still, in response to calls from the Foreign Ministry and SDF groups engaged in peacekeeping missions, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said such weapons-use latitude should be allowed to protect foreign peacekeepers under attack.

On Wednesday, a senior official of the Cabinet Office reported on the planned revision to Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and gained his approval.