The Security Council of Japan, an advisory body to the prime minister, will basically decide which emergency situations will warrant Japanese support for U.S. forces under the new defense cooperation pact with the United States, Defense Agency officials said April 10.

Agency officials, in explaining the procedure for initiating Japanese support, told a working team of the ruling tripartite alliance that the Cabinet will decide on a basic action plan based on suggestions made by the council.

The Diet, apparently with no power to influence the decision, will receive reports only after the Cabinet has made its decision, the officials said. The SDP and New Party Sakigake, the LDP’s non-Cabinet allies, have demanded that the Diet be consulted before allowing Self-Defense Forces to launch any activities.

The criteria for defining such emergency situations remains unclear. The government only says that “situations in areas surrounding Japan,” a formal term used in a Japan-U.S. agreement reached in September, are defined based on whether the situations affect Japan’s peace and security.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of Chinese military aircraft were observed flying close to Japanese territorial airspace in fiscal 1997, provoking Air Self-Defense jets to scramble against them more frequently than ever before, Defense Agency officials said April 10.

But the number of scrambles by SDF jets fell by 74 from the previous year to 160, as fewer Russian military aircraft approached Japanese airspace. No foreign aircraft actually violated Japanese airspace during the fiscal year, which ended March 31. Half of the 160 scrambles were against what appeared to be Russian aircraft, while SDF jets scrambled against what seemed to be Chinese and Taiwanese airplanes about 24 times each. There were very few scrambles against Chinese planes in fiscal 1996.

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