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Defense Agency Director General Shigeru Ishiba wants to reduce civilian control over Japan’s defense forces by revising relevant legislation, informed sources said Wednesday.

Ishiba’s planned revisions would see the power accorded to nonuniformed staff at the agency slashed.

The move is likely to generate heated debate within the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and at the Diet.

Ishiba’s plan centers on a review of the role of counselors — one of the civilian control mechanisms, the sources said. Counselors aid the agency chief in formulating basic defense and military policies.

Top uniformed members of the Self-Defense Forces have been calling for the abolition of the counselor posts, seeking to minimize the influence of nonuniformed staff on the operations of the forces.

With an SDF team engaged in a crucial mission in Iraq, Ishiba has been supportive of moves to enhance the power accorded to uniformed members, the sources said.

Ishiba may be advancing the plan ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle Prime Minister Koizumi has said he will carry out in late September, in which Ishiba may be replaced, the sources said.

The Defense Agency Law is designed to exert civilian control over all spheres of SDF operations through the role played by counselors.

Under the Defense Agency Law, a counselor serves as director of the agency’s secretariat, while others head various bureaus.

Counselors aid the agency’s director general in giving instructions, authorization and supervision to the ground, air and maritime branches of the SDF.

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