The Abe administration’s reinterpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution to allow greater use of military force in defending other countries is one of the biggest changes ever to Japan’s postwar security policy.
The administration has given a range of examples as to how the Self-Defense Forces might used when related laws are updated later this year. They include scenarios in which troops might:
Defend U.S. warships.
Troops could protect U.S. warships under attack from a third country near Japanese waters, before an imminent, direct attack on Japan, because cooperation with the U.S. military is considered essential to secure Japan’s own survival.
Intercept ships for inspection.
Troops might forcibly stop vessels for inspection when they are believed to be carrying weapons to a third country that is attacking U.S. warships in the region, when the battle seems likely to spill over to Japan — a step currently considered unconstitutional and prohibited as use of force.
Shoot down a missile fired at the U.S.
The SDF could intercept a ballistic missile that is flying over the Japanese archipelago heading toward Hawaii, the U.S. territory of Guam or the U.S. mainland, and when requested by America to do so.
Protect peacekeepers abroad.
SDF personnel could rescue civilians engaged in U.N.-backed peacekeeping operations that come under attack, using weapons if necessary to defend those civilians.
Minesweeping in the Middle East.
A plan still being contemplated would allow Japanese forces to participate in U.N.-led multinational minesweeping efforts to secure sea lanes in the Middle East, such as in the Strait of Hormuz, arguably crucial lifelines for resource-poor Japan.