Permanent SDF law should set dispatch principles: Ishiba


Japan needs a permanent law that lays out the basic rules for dispatching the Self-Defense Forces overseas, instead of enacting short-term special laws for each mission, newly appointed Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba said in a recent interview.

“We should set basic principles and rules to decide under what conditions we will send (SDF units) overseas,” said Ishiba, a noted expert on defense issues. “Enacting a special law each time is problematic.”

Due to strict legal restrictions under the war-renouncing Constitution, the Diet has enacted a number of special ruling coalition-sponsored laws to dispatch SDF units overseas.

Deliberations over those laws have stirred controversy each time, including the law for the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s logistic support mission in the Indian Ocean to back up antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, and another law that sent Ground Self-Defense Force troops to Iraq on a humanitarian assistance mission.

Ishiba stressed there should be careful deliberations before SDF units are mobilized for further operations.

But the government should have a law that sets the principles for an SDF dispatch, prepares a legal framework for the SDF to smoothly carry out an overseas mission and ensures tight civilian control over the military, Ishiba said.

“Many in the opposition parties also point out the necessity for such a law, and I believe many people share the same opinion as me,” he said.

The government plans to hand the Diet a bill for another special law to allow the MSDF to continue its fuel-supply operations in the Indian Ocean because the current law expires Nov. 1.

“I hope this (bill) will be the last one, and both the ruling and opposition parties will deepen understanding that (such a mission) should be based on a general law,” he said.

Whether to extend the MSDF mission is a key bone of contention between the ruling coalition and the opposition camp in the current Diet session.

Particularly controversial is an allegation that fuel supplied by the MSDF to U.S. vessels may have been used by the U.S. military for Iraq-related operations, even though the scope of Japan’s antiterrorism law is strictly limited to Afghanistan-related operations.

Ishiba pledged to offer as much information on the MSDF fuel-supply mission as possible to dispel public suspicions. “We want to disclose as much detailed data as possible as long as military secrets aren’t disclosed and (relations) between Japan and the United States aren’t damaged,” he said.

The Indian Ocean operations also include preventing the traffic of weapons, narcotics and funds of terrorists in Afghanistan, he said.

“Tankers carrying oil headed for Japan also pass through these sealanes. The operation is important to ensure safety (for them), too,” he argued.