Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the top contender to become the next prime minister, expressed his strong desire Friday to have a law passed that would permanently authorize overseas deployments of the Self-Defense Forces.
Abe also said a lesson from the just-completed deployment of ground troops to Iraq is that Japan needs to seriously consider how its troops should respond in the future, in the event that allied forces come under attack, alluding to the current constitutional interpretation that prohibits Japan from engaging in collective defense.
“If foreign troops working alongside (the SDF) are attacked, must our troops just stand there and watch without doing anything?” Abe asked in an opening speech at a seminar on the SDF’s Iraq mission. “Can we just leave the situation like this as we aim to continue this kind of international activity?”
Due to Japan’s self-imposed limits on the SDF’s use of weapons in humanitarian aid missions, troops stationed in Iraq operated under the protection of British and other allied forces.
Abe also reiterated his desire to set up an advisory body similar to the U.S. National Security Council and improved communications between the Prime Minister’s Official Residence and the White House, in order to facilitate regular dialogue between the leaders of the two countries.
His plan is widely seen by political analysts as an attempt to centralize control over defense and foreign affairs if he becomes prime minister.
The deployment of SDF troops overseas is controversial, particularly in light of the pacifist Constitution.
A law that permanently authorizes such overseas operations would likely be criticized by parts of Asia that suffered from Japanese wartime aggression.
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