WASHINGTON – Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said here Thursday that the party would work toward lifting a freeze on Japanese participation in United Nations peacekeeping efforts.
The LDP will also review Tokyo’s five conditions for joining U.N. peacekeeping operations so Japan can more effectively contribute to the international community, Yamasaki told reporters.
He added that the ruling LDP will seek to revise a law on Japan’s cooperation in U.N. peacekeeping operations at an extraordinary Diet session convening in the fall.
A 1992 law restricts Self-Defense Forces’ involvement in peacekeeping forces and sets strict conditions on sending personnel abroad to participate in peacekeeping missions. The law stipulates the SDF can only be dispatched to U.N. peacekeeping operations if a ceasefire is in place.
The other four conditions are:
* take a neutral stance among the warring sides.
* recipient country gives its consent.
* SDF be ready to withdraw if there are any problems.
* forces carry the minimum arms necessary for self-defense.
Yamasaki said the last condition should be relaxed, saying SDF contingents joining U.N. peacekeeping forces should have arms sufficient to defend personnel dispatched from other countries.
The 1992 law only allows Japan to send SDF personnel overseas to perform limited noncombat duties, such as aiding refugees and building bridges, as part of U.N. peacekeeping operations.
More legislation is required to activate a portion of the law that would allow the SDF to participate in missions that may result in armed skirmishes, such as monitoring demilitarized zones and collecting and disposing of abandoned weapons.
Even if the ban on its full participation in U.N. peacekeeping forces were lifted, the SDF still could not be dispatched as it would violate Article 9 of the Constitution, which renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
Later Thursday, Yamasaki met with Torkel Patterson, senior director for Asia-Pacific affairs with the National Security Council, and voiced Japan’s willingness to send SDF units to U.N. peacekeeping operations in East Timor.
Yamasaki said he told Patterson that Japanese participation in the mission would be meaningless unless it joins U.N. peacekeeping forces.
“Therefore, I explained (that the) freeze on Japan’s participation in peacekeeping forces should be scrapped,” Yamasaki said.
Patterson was quoted as saying Washington supports Japan’s proposed participation in the East Timor mission.
Defense bosses meet
Defense Agency chief Gen Nakatani and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are expected to meet in Washington on June 22, government sources said Friday.
It will be the first such meeting since the administration of President George W. Bush was inaugurated in January.
Nakatani told a news conference the same day that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi approved the meeting when the director general met him at his official residence.
The prime minister instructed Nakatani to hold talks on security issues in preparation for the Koizumi-Bush summit scheduled for June 30 in Camp David near Washington.
Nakatani said he will also meet Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka next week along with top officials from the agency and the ministry to review security policy.
Nakatani and Rumsfeld are expected to discuss the U.S. missile defense plan, a comprehensive review of defense strategy, collective defense for Japan, as well as China and the Korean Peninsula.
Nakatani also said he would like to visit the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, where he is likely to trade views on U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Earlier this week, the director general said he will study ways to increase Japan’s participation in these operations. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are banned under the Constitution from participating in U.N. peacekeeping missions that involve the use of force.
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