The Japanese and U.S. governments plan to include mine-sweeping in international sea lanes when they update their bilateral defense cooperation guidelines later this month, it has been learned.
The plan, presented by the government Monday at a meeting of the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling bloc to discuss national security legislation, is part of a push to expand the SDF’s activities abroad and to prepare for the use of collective self-defense.
No participants from the LDP and its coalition partner, Komeito, opposed the plan, sources with access to the meeting said.
The guidelines, being update for the first time in 18 years, are expected to be finalized by the two nations’ foreign and defense ministers in Washington on April 27.
The government is said to believe the SDF can conduct mine-sweeping operations in dangerous areas even if there is no cease-fire agreement between the warring parties, provided that three new conditions for the SDF’s use of force are met.
The three conditions, set in July last year, include a situation in which countries with close ties to Japan are under attack and there is an explicit danger that could threaten Japan’s existence.
Under the 1997 version of the guidelines, the SDF can only carry out mine-sweeping operations in waters near Japan.
The revised guidelines, however, would remove such geographical constraints, expanding the scope of any joint operations, the sources said, although it is unlikely specific areas of operation will be mentioned.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to allow the SDF to engage in mine-sweeping in the Middle East, arguing that the economy would be hurt considerably in the event of a blockade in the Strait of Hormuz, where 80 percent of the crude oil imported by Japan passes through.
It is understood Komeito remains cautious about the idea.