The Self-Defense Forces should be allowed to maintain security in conflict zones, even if those activities are not authorized by the United Nations, former U.N. undersecretary general Yasushi Akashi said Thursday.

Speaking at a seminar titled “Peace Support Operations and the Role of Civilians,” organized by the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo, Akashi said Japan should “expand (the SDF’s role) to include peace-ensuring activities,” like those of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

ISAF is a NATO-led multinational force with a mandate to provide security in Kabul and its surrounding region. It has been deployed under the authority of the U.N. Security Council.

The government’s position is that the SDF cannot take part in peace-ensuring activities as they violate the pacifist Constitution, which prohibits the use of force to settle international disputes.

Tokyo’s position means that the Ground Self-Defense Force troops in Samawah, southern Iraq, are restricted to providing humanitarian assistance.

Having served at the U.N. in a number of roles, including special adviser to the secretary general and special representative of the secretary general for Cambodia and Yugoslavia, Akashi criticized the international body.

The U.N. can be useful, depending on whether the U.N. Security Council member states act in unison,” he said.

Although the Japanese tend to deify the U.N., “it may no longer be realistic to seek legitimacy solely at the U.N.,” he added.

Akashi chaired a private advisory panel on international cooperation for former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda that compiled a report urging the SDF to join multinational peacekeeping efforts, although with clear restrictions.

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