• Kyodo

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The Maritime Self-Defense Force placed personnel aboard U.S. patrol vessels and under U.S. military command at the U.S. Navy’s Sasebo base shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to sources at the base.

The dispatch occurred before revisions of the Self-Defense Forces Law were enacted allowing the SDF to engage in sentry operations at U.S. bases, and could be considered an example of Japan exercising the right of collective self-defense.

The government says the war-renouncing Constitution allows Japan to have the right of collective self-defense as a sovereign state under international law, but not to exercise this right.

The MSDF dispatched one seaman each to three U.S. patrol vessels called landing craft utility (LCU) vessels on round-the-clock sentry missions around the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship Essex at Sasebo in late September 2001, the sources said.

A Defense Agency official admitted MSDF personnel were stationed aboard the three U.S. patrol craft as liaison officers to ensure the safety of MSDF vessels in Sasebo Bay at that time and that the move was legal.

Several MSDF members were rotated on shifts and served under a Japanese lieutenant, the sources said.

The Essex was being loaded with a large amount of bombs and missiles from an ammunition bunker at Sasebo base from Sept. 20 to 22 in 2001, when it left on an urgent mission.