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Japan mulls law to supply arms to U.S. troops in logistics support

Kyodo

In a major policy change, Japan is considering creating a law that would enable its Self-Defense Forces to provide weapons and ammunition to U.S. and other troops as part of its logistics support, a government source said in Tokyo on Saturday.

The move is in line with the Cabinet’s decision on July 1 to expand support to troops of other countries as part of Japan’s security policy overhaul.

The government hopes the change regarding the weapons provision will be reflected in the guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation to be revised by the end of the year, and it aims to submit bills to revise the relevant legislation to the ordinary parliament session next year, the source said.

With the introduction of the new legislation, the government’s position is that providing arms and ammunition does not run counter to the pacifist Constitution so long as the SDF is not integrated in the use of force by other countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also wants to eliminate restrictions on SDF personnel in their overseas missions and for Japan to act as a more proactive contributor to global peace, the source said.

Critics have pointed out that an expanded SDF presence will increase the chances of its personnel being involved in conflicts once they start supplying arms and ammunitions to other troops.

New Komeito, the ruling coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, appears to be wary about a possible change in the provision of weapons. “Nothing has been discussed about this matter,” a senior New Komeito lawmaker said in an interview.

The government’s decision earlier this month pushed the SDF to assume a greater role in global security. A major change was reinterpreting the Constitution to allow for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, or going to the aid of an ally under armed attack even if Japan is not directly attacked.

“It is but natural to revise our legislative framework to pursue the SDF’s expanded role in logistics support following the Cabinet decision,” the government source said.

In a related development, the government adopted new guidelines in April that allow Japanese exports of arms, providing they contribute to peace and undergo a strict screening process.