The Defense Agency plans to update the scope of Japan-U.S. joint military exercises to reflect new threats in the post-Cold War era and to also allow the participation of other government ministries and agencies, sources close to the agency said Sunday.
The bilateral drills have until now focused on dealing with a large-scale invasion of Japan by a third party, namely, the former Soviet Union, and protecting Japan’s air space and sea lanes.
The agency decided to revise the joint drills over concern that the current format hinders Japan from effectively responding to new threats, such as cyberterrorism, intrusions into Japanese waters by suspicious vessels, ballistic missile attacks, and spy attacks on nuclear power plants, the sources said.
The agency is also considering having its officials and those from other government ministries and agencies participate in the revised bilateral drills, the sources said, adding that the agency in
tends to consult with the United States on the matter, they said.
Only members of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are allowed to take part in the joint drills.
The agency also plans to hold mock conferences on security affairs to simulate decisions by the prime minister and defense agency chief and the timing of such decisions in an effort to clarify that military affairs are controlled by civilians, according to the sources.
The agency hopes to adopt the plan during Japan-U.S. joint drills to be held in the fall.
Defense Agency chief Tsutomu Kawara asked senior agency officials and SDF members on May 31 to review the joint drills.
His decision apparently reflects such developments as North Korea’s firing of a rocket over Japan in August 1998 and the intrusion of what were believed to be North Korean spy ships into Japanese waters in March last year.
Japan also hopes that the new configuration of the exercises will better reflect recent revisions to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.
Under the revisions, tasks for the SDF have been expanded to include rear-echelon logistic support for the U.S. military, search and rescue operations for missing U.S. military personnel, and air and sea transportation for evacuating Japanese nationals.
The agency found it necessary for officials from other ministries and agencies to take part in the drills.
since the guidelines also allow the government to seek the cooperation of local administrations and private companies in allowing U.S. forces to use civilian airports and harbors and in extending medical assistance to U.S. military personnel, an agency official said.
“It is desirable for the Japanese government as a whole to take part in the revised joint drills” so the nation can swiftly act in the event of emergencies in Japan and its surrounding areas, while guaranteeing civilian control of the nation’s defense system, the official said.