Regarding the allegation in the June 2 editorial “Naval exercise tweaks Constitution” that Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) participation in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise violated Japan’s Constitution: This could only be stated by people completely unfamiliar with naval exercises.
The event in question is called a sink exercise. Of the many types of naval gunfire exercises, it’s the only one where an actual ship is the target. Since each RIMPAC exercise involves a lot of ships from many countries, a sink exercise would have to be a tightly choreographed event, for one primary reason — safety.
In a normal sink exercise, to ensure the safety of all ships, submarines and aircraft, the ships have to follow specific procedures. First, they are formed into a single line. They are given a specific, narrow route to travel past the target ship. The schedule for the event gives each ship only a short time slot to shoot its guns at the target ship. This is entirely practical as it is designed to avoid mistakes made during naval gunfire exercises in the past.
You wouldn’t question the “anzen daiichi” (safety first) signs at a construction site. Even though the site looks safe, there are hazards that only the trained eye can see. Similarly, naval gunfire exercises like a sink exercise also carry their own set of potential hazards. From my experience as a gunnery officer on a ship, and having seen sink exercise plans, the JMSDF explanation makes complete sense. So, concerns that the JMSDF violated the collective security restrictions of Japan’s Constitution are misguided.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.