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Coalition talks on upgrading Japan’s defense strategies took a twist Friday when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s team made an about-face and said the Self-Defense Forces will not conduct missions in combat zones, giving ground to pacifist ally New Komeito.

In a fourth round of talks, government officials backed away from their suggestion Tuesday that scrapping the notion of “non-combat zone” will allow the SDF to take on logistic missions in combat zones. Instead, it said Friday that SDF personnel cannot conduct such missions in areas where combat is taking place and will disengage from any such mission once fighting begins, with the exception of humanitarian search and rescue missions.

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