The government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party plan to draw up a permanent law governing the dispatch of Japanese Self-Defense Forces overseas and to boost logistical support for the U.S. military, a government source said Saturday.
The law, which would expedite the dispatch overseas of SDF personnel and provide logistical support to the troops of allied countries, is part of moves to prepare a legal framework for changes to security policy under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
But the LDP still needs to convince its junior coalition partner, Komeito, to support the plan, as Komeito remains reluctant to enact such a law, according to the source.
The LDP hopes to submit the law to the Diet by spring, together with other relevant security legislation, including legalization of the exercise of the right to collective self-defense in order to come to the aid of allies under armed attack, the source said.
Expanding the scope of SDF activities and areas where they can operate has raised fears the SDF could become integrated in the use of force by other countries, which runs counter to the pacifist Constitution, say critics of the security changes pushed by the Abe government.
To counter those concerns, ruling coalition lawmakers are expected to discuss measures to apply restraints on SDF operations, the source said.
Abe, who wants to create the permanent law on the SDF dispatch abroad, on Wednesday instructed newly appointed Defense Minister Gen Nakatani to create a legal framework to enable a “seamless” response to security threats around the nation.
During a meeting Saturday with Komeito deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa, LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura is believed to have also stressed the need to push for such a law, the source said.
It has been necessary for the Diet to pass special laws to authorize the dispatch of SDF personnel whenever sent abroad. Separate legislation was passed to allow refueling missions to support U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, and participation in humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in “noncombat areas” in Iraq.
Many LDP lawmakers said dispatching SDF through special legislation is time-consuming.
However, Komeito is wary about enacting a permanent law out of fear that SDF personnel may be dispatched abroad even in cases that have nothing to do with defending Japan.
In October, Shigeki Sato, who heads the party’s panel on diplomacy and security, said establishing a permanent law is not “the highest priority.”
Japan’s new security policy, adopted July 1 by the Cabinet to enable to exercise of the right to collective self-defense, expands the SDF’s logistical support for foreign troops.
Under the policy, dispatching the SDF for missions such as refueling to areas where combat is not taking place would not constitute integration into the use of force by other countries.
In preparing the new permanent law to expand the SDF’s operations abroad, attention will be focused on such issues as providing weapons and ammunition to U.S. and other allied troops, the source said.
Discussions will also include how the new law would work in relation to a separate law on U.N. peacekeeping operations, which currently serves as the legal basis for Japan’s dispatch of its troops.