The controversial dispatch of three Air Self-Defense Force transport planes to Thailand for a possible evacuation mission in Cambodia was the “right choice,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama said July 18.
In the wake of objections to the dispatch, he said new legislation should be considered to justify such preparatory missions. “The government is responsible for securing the safety of Japanese overseas,” Kajiyama told a regularly scheduled news conference. “The three planes were sent to best prepare for a possible evacuation of Japanese people there in case of a sudden change of the situation.”
The three C-130H Hercules transports sent to Thailand arrived back late July 17 at Naha airport in Okinawa Prefecture. The aircraft had stayed at a Thai naval base and never engaged in an evacuee airlift, which Phnom Penh had banned.
The top government spokesman urged the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two non-Cabinet allies to discuss setting a legal framework to prepare for similar missions in the future. “The current Self-Defense Forces Law does not stipulate everything,” Kajiyama said. The dispatch controversy “should not be made into something short-lived.”
Article 100 of the Self-Defense Forces Law was amended in 1994 to include overseas evacuations as an SDF duty, but only when evacuation is absolutely necessary. The law does not authorize a dispatch simply as a precaution for an evacuation. Hashimoto is believed to have overstepped his legal authority and did not consult his own party and the LDP’s allies before sending the planes to Thailand.