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The Japan Coast Guard should be put in charge of inspecting North Korean cargo ships instead of the Self-Defense Forces if the U.N. Security Council passes a resolution calling for the measure, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada indicated Friday.

“The Maritime Self-Defense Force has been dispatched only in situations the Japan Coast Guard cannot handle,” Hamada said, referring to the MSDF destroyers patrolling for pirates off Somalia. “It’s important to consider that (inspecting North Korean ships would be) happening in waters near Japan.”

Hamada stressed that, contrary to some opinions, the SDF is not necessarily eager to engage in overseas missions, and if the government intends to conduct inspections, it must use all available resources.

“If that’s going to happen, then naturally, we should also consider using the Japan Coast Guard,” he said, noting the SDF cannot inspect North Korean cargo without new legislation.

Hamada’s remarks came a day after Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the government is considering new legislation because current laws cannot cover cargo inspections being proposed by the UNSC.

Kawamura said there is a “good chance” the legislative effort will occur before the extended Diet session closes July 28.

The Ship Inspection Operations Law allows the SDF to inspect cargo ships in Japanese waters or on the high seas. But that can only happen when the government determines that circumstances in the vicinity of Japan pose a serious threat to national peace and security.

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