Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday the Self-Defense Forces could provide logistic aid to foreign militaries in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, detailing for the first time specific regions where Japanese troops could offer logistical support under contentious security legislation.
During debate on the bills in the Lower House, Abe said that if a situation is believed to have a potentially serious impact on Japan’s peace and security, the SDF could conduct refueling missions and provide ammunition to foreign forces engaged in combat far from Japan.
“If serious military tensions or an armed conflict occur in the Middle East or the Indian Ocean that could greatly impact Japanese ships carrying goods to Japan, and if the United States or other countries were dealing with such situations,” the SDF could provide logistical support to foreign troops, Abe said in response to a question from an opposition party member.
Abe’s remarks sparked concern that Japan could be dragged into a war involving the U.S., as well as raising the risk of SDF casualties.
Experts say logistic units are often the first to be targeted in combat, as they are usually more vulnerable than front-line units and provide key supplies such as food and ammunition to front-line forces.
The current law was effectively crafted to provide logistic support to the U.S. military during emergencies in and around the Korean Peninsula. But if enacted, the new legislation would remove the de facto geographical limits and allow the SDF to provide logistical support to foreign forces dealing with situations that seriously impact the peace and security of Japan.
Abe’s comments nullify a 1999 statement by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who famously said that dispatching the SDF to the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and the other side of the globe for such missions was inconceivable.
Abe claimed that the government would work to provide measures that reduce the risk to SDF personnel as much as possible.
In regards to the exercise of collective self-defense, or aiding a friendly nation under attack, Abe reiterated that mine-sweeping operations in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East would be the only possible exception where Japan could be allowed to use force in another nation’s territory.