The government might enable Self-Defense Force personnel engaged in U.N. peacekeeping missions to go to the aid of other countries’ troops if they are under attack, sources in the Abe administration said Saturday.
The move is part Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to enact legal changes linked to SDF personnel participating in U.N. peacekeeping operations. Abe wants to allow SDF peacekeepers to rescue U.N. and other civilian personnel under attack in areas other than where the SDF are deployed.
The government plans to explain the proposal to a meeting of ruling coalition lawmakers soon, possibly on Tuesday, with the intention of submitting a bill to the Diet this fall to revise the law on SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping.
But Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party is likely to face stiff resistance from junior coalition ally New Komeito, given its firm stance that SDF troops should only be allowed to rescue civilian U.N. personnel and employees of nongovernmental organizations.
When operating in U.N.-led peacekeeping missions, the SDF at present is forbidden from rescuing either peacekeepers from other countries or civilian U.N. personnel who come under attack in areas other than those in which the SDF are deployed.
That is because doing so would amount to the “use of force as means of settling international disputes,” an act prohibited under Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, if the party attacked by the SDF is a quasi-state or national organization.
The government is thus considering expanding the scope for the use of weapons by SDF personnel in peacekeeping operations, by defining the quasi-state organization in a limited manner. New Komeito is open to enabling the SDF to go to rescue civilian personnel.
But a senior New Komeito official questioned the need to protect peacekeepers from other countries who are already armed.
Some government officials remain concerned that with limited legal changes, the SDF could still be forced to turn down requests for assistance from other nations whose peacekeepers are under attack, even though their soldiers would go to the rescue of SDF personnel in a similar situation.
The government has therefore “determined that it would damage the overall safety of troops from participating countries if the SDF can’t use weapons in the same way the troops from other countries can,” one source said.
Under the current law, SDF personnel on U.N. peacekeeping operations can use weapons to protect themselves, SDF members alongside them and others who have come under their control.