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In wake of criticism, revisions to Japan-U.S. military support pact to be put on hold

Kyodo

Japan is poised to postpone a planned revision to an accord to boost its Self-Defense Forces’ assistance to the U.S. military amid domestic criticism of recent defense reforms, sources close to the matter said Saturday.

The government and ruling bloc had planned to submit proposals to revise the acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or ACSA, during an ordinary Diet session to be convened Jan. 4. The accord has allowed the troops of the two countries to share supplies and transportation services.

Japan and the United States have been in talks to have the military cooperation expand into areas such as information gathering and surveillance, antipiracy operations and defense against ballistic missiles.

The revision comes as Japan’s new security laws will allow the SDF to expand their overseas missions, increasing chances for cooperation with the U.S. forces.

The delay is thought to be aimed at avoiding further criticism of the security laws, which were enacted by the Diet in September amid fierce public opposition, ahead of next summer’s House of Councilors’ election.

In a sign the Abe administration is seeking to put an election victory first, training programs to ease SDF members into their newly expanded roles will also be postponed, the sources said.

“We’ll keep quiet for a while and the public will gradually become more understanding about the security laws,” a leading member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party said.

The government had initially sought to get the revision to ACSA through the Diet by the end of March, when the security laws are set to come into force.

Groups protesting the laws have remained active since their enactment, including prominent group Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, or SEALDs.

Such groups now aim to bring the defense laws to the fore of the agenda going into the Upper House election by starting support groups for candidates proposing to scrap the laws, while also pushing opposition parties to present a united front.