Two bills that would expand the Self Defense Forces’ overseas military role in line with updated guidelines for defense cooperation with the U.S. will be sent to the Diet on Tuesday, according to a senior LDP official.
The bills, along with a proposal to revise the Japan-U.S. Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement, were presented Wednesday to the Liberal Democratic Party’s National Defense and Foreign Affairs divisions and to its research commissions on Security and Foreign Affairs.
The legislation would allow the SDF to play a greater military role overseas in accordance with new guidelines for Japan-U.S. defense cooperation issued last year. It would also allow SDF personnel greater leeway in using arms outside Japan.
Although the LDP’s two non-Cabinet allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake — argue that more time is needed to thoroughly examine the bills, the LDP intends to have the Diet discuss them without delay, according to Sohei Miyashita, chairman of the party’s research commission on security.
By submitting the bills against the wishes of its allies, the LDP hopes to encourage expanded Diet debate. It is not clear whether the bills will be approved during the current 150-day session, which is scheduled to end in mid-June.
One bill concerns ensuring Japan’s peace and security in the event of a military-related emergency in a neighboring area. It urges the state, local administrations and the SDF to back U.S. forces with logistical support, search-and-rescue operations and inspections of ships.
The other bill would revise the SDF Law to provide for the dispatch of ships and sea-based helicopters, in addition to aircraft, to evacuate Japanese civilians overseas.
Both bills would revise the criteria under which SDF personnel are authorized to use arms and imply that more powerful weapons may be used. If the bills pass the Diet, SDF troops would be allowed greater discretion in the use of arms when they “rationally acknowledge the need to use arms in accordance with the situation.”
The new legislation concerning emergencies in areas surrounding Japan would also allow SDF units to use arms for self-protection when conducting search-and-rescue operations and ship inspections on and above the high seas. The legislation defines such emergencies in neighboring areas as “situations that would gravely affect the peace and safety of Japan.”
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