An internal Defense Agency document says that cuts in Self-Defense Forces personnel and equipment as proposed by the Finance Ministry could leave nuclear reactors open to attack and hamper disaster relief operations.

The document was drafted by officers in all three branches of the SDF, agency sources said. It is aimed at countering the Finance Ministry’s informal proposal that Ground Self-Defense Force personnel be cut by 40,000 to 120,000 and the number of tanks and artillery pieces be reduced by 50 percent to 60 percent.

A cut in SDF personnel is one of the issues in the government plan to update the long-term National Defense Program Outline later this month.

SDF personnel and equipment cuts were also favored in a Cabinet decision in December 2003 that gave the green light to Japan’s participation in a U.S.-initiated missile defense project, and in a report by an advisory panel on security to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in early October.

The Defense Agency document says a personnel cut could result in severe damage in the event of an attack on nuclear reactors, oil refineries or other crucial facilities.

The SDF would not be able to dispatch relief units quickly to areas hit by typhoons, earthquakes or other disasters, resulting in a higher number of casualties, it says.

The personnel cut proposed by the Finance Ministry would also force the Defense Agency to abolish at least 50 garrisons, a third of the total, which would have a serious impact on nearby economies and employment, it says.

The document says the Defense Agency is ready to cut tanks, artillery pieces and other equipment by 20 percent to 30 percent, but the Finance Ministry’s proposal to slash up to 60 percent “lacks grounds” and would hamper the nation’s ability to cope with an armed attack.

The Finance Ministry has also called for cutting the number of fixed-wing patrol aircraft in the Maritime Self-Defense Force and fighters in the Air Self-Defense Force. These proposals cannot be accepted, the document says.

Reducing patrol aircraft would limit the MSDF’s ability to deal with incidents on remote islands, while the demand to cut fighters shows the Finance Ministry’s failure to sufficiently consider the regional military situation, it says.

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