The government and the three ruling parties agreed Saturday to submit a bill to the Diet this week that will make it possible to send Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to take part in post-war reconstruction work.
The new law will have a limited duration of four years and the SDF personnel will only be allowed to work in noncombatant areas, said Taku Yamasaki, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told the secretaries general of the ruling parties in a meeting at a Tokyo hotel that the government aims to approve the bill at a Cabinet meeting Friday and have the new law enacted during the current Diet session, Yamasaki said.
The government and the ruling parties also agreed to work to extend the 2001 antiterrorism law by two years. The law comes to an end in November.
Koizumi cited United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483, which called for international assistance for reconstruction and maintaining security in Iraq as a basis for the Iraqi bill, and said the SDF personnel should be dispatched to necessary areas, Yamasaki said.
“The ruling parties accepted the government’s resolve and we aim to enact the law during the current session,” Yamasaki told reporters after the meeting.
The current 150-day ordinary session ends on June 18, and it is inevitable that the session will be extended. But Yamasaki said there was no discussion of the matter at Saturday’s meeting, apparently to fend off criticism from some LDP members opposed to an extension.
While the outline of the bill will be unveiled on Monday, government sources said the SDF’s key tasks will be providing logistic support to U.S. troops in Iraq, including transportation and providing food, water and fuel, as well as humanitarian assistance and the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure.
Yamasaki said rules on the use of weapons will likely mirror the antiterrorism law, under which SDF personnel are only permitted to use weapons in self-defense and defense of other people under their control.
Limiting the SDF’s role to logistic support in noncombatant areas and not relaxing the rules on the use of weapons are a tactic to avoid putting the legislation in conflict with the war-renouncing Constitution and have the law passed swiftly.
Also mirroring the antiterrorism law, the dispatch of the SDF personnel will need to be approved by the Diet within 20 days of the Defense Agency’s dispatch order, according to Testuzo Fuyushiba, secretary general of New Komeito, a coalition partner.
Fuyushiba said post-fact approval by the Diet can be justified to enable a swift dispatch of personnel. “We consider the debate on the bill itself to be advance approval by the Diet,” he said.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.