The government on Tuesday released the details of seven bills that would govern the legal procedures Japan must follow to respond to an armed attack.
The government plans to submit the bills to the Diet in early March following approval by the Cabinet.
Public aversion to the military, a legacy of Japan’s aggression overseas before and during World War II, had made the use of force, even in self-defense, a political taboo and blocked the nation from preparing any legal measures to counter a foreign attack.
However, growing concerns over North Korea’s nuclear threat allowed the government in June to enact laws defining steps to mobilize the Self-Defense Forces in the event of an attack. The latest bills would supplement the war-contingency legislation.
One of the new bills would allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to inspect foreign ships suspected of carrying equipment of a military nature in and around Japan’s territorial waters that are believed to be heading for a country that has attacked, or is deemed on the verge of attacking, Japan. The bill would allow the MSDF to inspect such ships without their consent.
If a ship is found to be carrying arms and ammunition, the government would order it to hand over its cargo. Under the bill, Japan would discard any weapons of mass destruction found during a search.
The Defense Agency would set up an arbitration office to monitor the inspection process that would be made up of outside legal experts.
Two of the bills would upgrade cooperation with the U.S. forces stationed in Japan in the event of an attack.
One would enable the SDF to provide U.S. forces with weapons and ammunition to jointly defend Japan.
The current Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, singed in 1996, excludes arms and ammunition from the lists of goods and services that can be shared between the SDF and the U.S. forces.
The other of these two bills would empower the prime minister to allow the U.S. military to use privately owned land or structures if deemed necessary.
Other bills include measures to ensure that prisoners of war are treated according to international law and that the authority of the national and local governments is defined in activities such as evacuating and rescuing residents, and compensating the owners of damaged property.
The Democratic Party of Japan demanded such a bill be drawn up to protect people’s lives and property when the main opposition party backed the government-sponsored legislation last year.
Although the government and ruling parties dismissed the DPJ’s request to define counterterrorism measures in the legislation, the new bill applies to large-scale terrorism.
Information from Kyodo added.