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Japan looks to expand SDF’s overseas rescue duties

Kyodo

The Abe administration has asked ruling parties to consider legislation allowing Self-Defense Forces to rescue Japanese during emergencies abroad.

The administration has been actively re-examining the legal constraints imposed by war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s team will likely call for a review of the legal framework so the SDF can expand its overseas rescue capabilities when he announces his policy next week on whether and how Japan can legally use collective self-defense to defend an ally under armed attack, the sources said.

The Liberal Democratic Party is seeking support from its more cautious ally New Komeito as the ruling coalition prepares for intensive debate on the two separate but equally controversial issues — collective self-defense, and increased SDF missions overseas — in the Lower House Budget Committee later this month.

For SDF rescue operations, Abe’s administration is considering certain conditions under which personnel can use weapons abroad — such as when the lives of Japanese are threatened by terrorists in a foreign country and local authorities cannot rescue them, the sources said. Japan would also need to seek approval from the host country for an SDF rescue mission.

The LDP’s junior coalition partner is expected to oppose the drastic change in national security policy amid fears that the overhaul will breach Article 9 of the Constitution.

Currently, the SDF can use weapons in self-defense or emergency evacuations, but not in rescue operations overseas.

After the Algerian hostage crisis in January 2013 left dozens of foreigners, including 10 Japanese, dead, the law was revised to allow the use of transport vehicles in emergencies.

New Komeito, however, rejected calls from the administration to expand the use of weapons in the lead-up to the vehicle revision.

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