Abe wants to enable SDF to rescue citizens overseas


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday he wants to discuss granting the Self-Defense Forces a mandate to evacuate Japanese nationals from crises overseas.

His comments came on the heels of filmed beheadings of two Japanese citizens by Islamic State extremists.

Abe has long argued the SDF should be given greater roles to defend the lives of Japanese overseas by removing strict legal restrictions on its operations. His efforts have raised concerns among liberal pacifists in Japan.

He told the Upper House Budget Committee on Monday it is important to consider such changes for the SDF’s mandate given the events of the past two weeks. He said it is his duty to protect the lives of Japanese nationals worldwide, describing himself as the “chief executive” of that assignment.

However, Abe said Japan will not join the coalition conducting airstrikes on Islamic State targets, and neither will it aid the effort with logistics support.

“At this stage, even if Japanese nationals, including members of nongovernmental organizations, are in danger overseas, (the SDF) can’t rescue them, even with consent from countries involved,” Abe said. “I want to discuss ways to enable the rescue” of Japanese citizens overseas.

He added that there are many Japanese workers with nongovernmental organizations working around the world. “We will consider the possibility of using arms to eliminate danger and to rescue” these individuals and others, he said.

Abe is set to submit new security-related bills to the Diet this spring, possibly including one designed to allow the SDF to deploy units to rescue Japanese citizens overseas during emergencies.

The change would allow the SDF to deploy to foreign nations with their consent in order to rescue Japanese citizens in trouble.

But this would probably have been insufficient to secure the release of the hostages in the latest crisis. Journalist Kenji Goto and self-styled security contractor Haruna Yukawa were being held by a nonstate actor in a location where the national government — either Syria or Iraq — had little control and it might have been impossible to gain the consent of local authorities for deployment.

In addition, dispatching SDF personnel on such a hostage rescue mission would increase the likelihood of Japan being dragged into war, experts say.

The planned security bills also include legislation based on the Cabinet’s controversial decision last year to reinterpret the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution to allow the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack.

Abe said Monday he sees no need to pose a geographical limit to exercising the right, meaning that as long as a situation meets the government’s criteria, the SDF may be dispatched anywhere worldwide.

Asked about whether acting in collective self-defense might make Japan a target for terrorism, he replied that the overriding factor is the nation’s responsibility as a member of the international community to join efforts to rid the world of terrorism.

“Basically, we will push ahead with ‘proactive pacifism’ to realize a world without terrorism,” he said, adding that the important thing is not to worry about what terrorists would think but to secure the peace and stability of the Middle East, Japan’s primary source of petroleum.

“No country can escape from the threat of terrorism,” he said. “That’s why the international community needs to cooperate and share information to combat it.”

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito camp plan to start discussions on the content of the security legislation this month.

  • Aru Hito

    Abe must resign to take responsibility for the killing of the hostages. That is the honorable action for a Japanese leader. Does he have no honor?

    • Now that is just down right stupid. You do not know the events that led up to Yukawa and Goto’s capture if you say that. Also, how about personal responsibility for walking into a dangerous war zone?

    • Tap Hue

      Abe was proven wrong: money and the international community don’t solve every problem. They won’t get Abe out of a dispute with his wife either. Now members of the group which killed Goto Kenji think that he was an enemy fighting for the Kurds. They also said that Abe decided to take part in the war against them. Japan’s coordination with Jordan and negotiation with tribal leaders appears to have failed to get the message across that Japan is not at war with “ISIL/ISIS”. It may be that Abe is inept or devoid of feelings for the people of Japan.

      • Really? This is Abe’s fault? Come on! He was told not to go three times by the government. Yukawa-san was kidnapped once before, Goto negotiated his release, then they both went back. Where is the personal responsibility here? They had to know they were putting their lives at risk. Where does Abe fit into this? Where do my hard earned tax payments fit into this?

  • Yosemite_Steve

    Wow, nice photo (not!) — really makes Abe look lost doesn’t it? Certainly not the poker face of a resolute leader.

    I note with deep interest a 180 degree difference in the tone of this article vs how the New York Times reports under the headline “Departing From Country’s Pacifism, Japanese Premier Vows Revenge for Killings”. This continues into the 2nd paragraph: “Such vows of retribution may be common in the West when leaders face extremist violence, but they have been unheard of in confrontation-averse Japan— until now. The prime minister’s call for revenge after the killings of the journalist, Kenji Goto, and another hostage, Haruna Yukawa, raised eyebrows even in the military establishment, adding to a growing awareness here that the crisis could be a watershed for this long pacifist country.”

    Of course different people report different news under entirely different slants, however I for one am fascinated in the degree to which the NYT frames this as a very aggressive Abe statement vs this Reuters staff report.

    I don’t make any value judgement either way — I believe that the US neocons reactions to 9/11 and their massive failure at executing a ‘global war on terror’ shows how likely establishment politicians and military anywhere are to make catastrophic blunders in the face of any crisis. Nothing Japan could do could have nearly the same degree of tragic effects. But I do think this incident could be an interesting bellwether for “Abe diplomacy” and as such may be fascinating.

  • Ramesh

    Japan should ban Islam route cause of terrorism as done by Angola.

    • John

      Shut up little hater. Take it from Christian American ! There is no place for such stupid policies in Japan.

  • mickrussom

    Japan needs to grow a set of balls and start actively putting Islam in the trash can where it belongs. We dont negotiate with these animals, we should be shutting this stuff down.

    • John Ax

      Muslims are not animals. Like all races and religions there are extremists and those are the ones that should be shut down. FTFY

      • Jeffrey

        The vast majority of Muslims do not support the action of extremists like ISIL. However, the members of ISIL are particularly barbaric.

        Ultimately, however, Sunis, Shia and the Kurds need to destroy ISIL.

    • John

      Islam is not the problem and Muslims aren’t animals and yet your comment is too offensive !

      Groups of terrorists who fight in name of Islam and distort its image in the Middle East should be entirely uprooted. Why people don’t talk about the ruthless Syrian regime which created ISIS with the help of Iran in order to continue murdering what left of Syria’s population away from international media ?! what about the humanitarian plight of Syrians and Iraqis now who are victims of both ISIS and the Syrian regime ?!

    • James

      What about Christian animals?

    • Merchant Mmo

      Their neighbors china and S.korea still squawk about the war 70 years ago so they cant. Gotta rely on the good ol’ USA =P

  • KenjiAd

    “Basically, we will push ahead with ‘proactive pacifism’ to realize a
    world without terrorism,” he said, adding that the important thing is
    not to worry about what terrorists would think but to secure the peace
    and stability of the Middle East, Japan’s primary source of petroleum.

    Emphasis mine. “he” – PM Abe

    Wait… Isn’t this basically what Bush/Cheney was saying before the invasion of Iraq (even though they didn’t explicitly said it was about oil) and that premature “mission accomplished” proclamation?

    We all know how well that adventure turned out to be.

    • Yosemite_Steve

      It’s basically just another excuse to push for more operational capacity for the SDF. It does seem to take a lot of credulousness but I think the pretend logic is that the SDF could include special forces capable of very targeted intervention to save J. citizens in hostage situations, such intervention being possible to make without getting more deeply involved in any of the really sticky politics of said situation. You’d have to be stupid to fall for that story being realistic, but I understand the logic which Abe et. al. can just about be counted on to push hard on based on this, and perhaps that Abe and co. might actually believe the story themselves to a certain degree (not that it really matters, only that they can say this stuff with a straight face).

      • Whatever they do with the SDF… most Japanese men cannot handle getting dirty, their uniform always has to be clean and pressed, and they will be carrying hair dryers instead of rations… while texting their mum. There are very few MEN in this country capable of self defense… really. Exactly why most women, if given an equal choice, will opt for a foreign partner.

      • James

        You probably got snubbed or dumped by a Japanese man, hence this is a good chance for you to attack them.

      • Gordon Graham

        Really? This is what you consider a worthy contribution to the conversation? And you’re on about Japanese men?

      • Well, as a verteran I can say what it takes to do the job. As a resident of Japan for 18 years, I can say that most I see cannot do the job… should Japan decide to deploy forces.

      • Gordon Graham

        Well as a 25 year resident who coaches ice hockey I can attest that a lot of the Japanese men I know are more disciplined and have a deeper sense of commitment and dedication than most of the men I know back home. Perhaps you should widen your lens a little. You’re viewpoint seems a little myopic. Do you have any experience with the SDF or are you basing your assumptions on the metrosexuals you encounter on your train ride into Shinjuku? Although, I respect the soldiers in the American armed forces a cursory glance around any train station or airport tells me that 80 percent of American men look as though they’d have trouble getting past their gut to tie their own shoelaces.

      • I stand down… deserved. Voted your comment up. And another plus for the metrosexuals term… lol!

  • tisho

    HA ! I told you ! For anyone that mocked my last comment on the article of the Japanese hostages, now go back and read it again and see that everything i said happened! I told you so! This is a confirmation that i was right that the hostages and all this was all staged and planned in order to push Abe’s agenda ! I told you so ! Go back and read my full comment !! It feels good to be right..

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Though I might not agree that it was staged (I’m always open to the possibility however) I too have been telling people just how neatly this all dovetails with Abe’s militant desires. Let’s face it, Japan is in the top 10 for military spending, can’t have all that hardware sitting around doing nothing, can we? Anyone who seriously believes that (possible?) future hostages will be rescued by the S.D.F. in some far flung corner of the world need their heads examined.

      • tisho

        Abe wants to cool down the anti-abe sentiment and the opposition against the reinterpretation of the constitution by showing that in deed the military needs to be deployed to rescue a Japanese citizen and that the constitution prevents that. He will do that in any case but he wants to win more support for such change otherwise the opposition groups that are growing in number might hinder his plans. I can already see several scenarios unfolding. Everyone saw that Jordan tried to help Japan. So i imagine a scenario in which Jordan is being threatened by ISIS and asks Japan for help, Abe will then have the support of people because everybody remembers how Jordan tried to help Japan, so he will have a green light and the perfect excuse to deploy some military overseas. His number one goal is weapon selling and containing China by ”helping” countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        I think the great majority of Japanese voters want no part of any increase in Japan’s military capabilities. However, the great majority of Japanese voters will not do, or say, anything about it. The very vocal right-wing minority will be screaming their support from the roof-tops however, and demanding that “something be done.” to protect Japanese nationals overseas.

    • 151E

      Well, if we’re rehashing old comments, I’d point out – *sigh* again – that this could just as well be common garden-variety political opportunism. There is nothing that suggests any Machiavellian machinations until well after the two hostages were taken. And while I do not completely discount your jaundiced conjecture, I think your self-congratulations are a little premature.

  • timefox

    Even if killing is wandering a downtown, the group which blames and excludes a policeman is here. Is the killing made postured in your country? They kills others by their logic. Killing lost room of a discussion.

    Don’t pardon for the group which announced that subversive activity was performed in Tokyo. Catch them who supports terror group.

    • Three chickens, batman, and coat hangers war in undies on main street with batons on unicycles…. whaaaat?

      • Gordon Graham

        It’s called automated translation software. Let’s have your take in Japanese, Kirt.

      • Oh…..! Now it makes complete sense!!

  • John Ax

    Japan has been a pacifist country way too long. It’s time they start deploying their SDF and help the global effort in combating a common enemy. ISIS has no boundaries and they will pervade all countries.

  • Kiuri

    Who in his right mind wants to oppose Abe on this count??? I can’t even imagine. I guess only those who wish Japan remain helpless in the hostage situations like this Goto case? Certainly not friends of Japan.

    • 151E

      I’m not against Japan having a hostage rescue team, but how would such capability have helped in this instance? No one save his captors knew where Goto was. Or would you have had men HALO jump into downtown Mosul at random on the off chance that they might stumble across their quarry?

  • Eduardo Heinrich Sanchez

    Is “Hate Speech” terrorism? Are Zainichi Koreans Japanese? The You-Tube video of a young woman threatening to murder – all Koreans – and to get out of Japan…Will Prime Minister Abe deploy the Self-Defense troops to protect Japan’s residents from this form of terror? These issues along with the stomping out of democracy in Okinawa needs to be addressed before Japan deals with defense of its citizens abroad. Time to answer the United Nations on the “Hate Speech” issue at home. Prime Minister Abe’s executive responsibility needs to make a stand against terror at home.

    Abe said. “I want to discuss ways to enable the rescue” of Japanese citizens overseas.

    Abe’s government is getting ready to put the Jugong on the chopping block and already well on his way to “decapitating” democratic processes in Japan.

    Are there laws against using public funding for buying votes?

    Former Governor Nakaiima was promised more government budget money than was asked.

    Governor Onaga is being given the cold shoulder by Abe’s government. The Okinawa people are being punished for voting against Abe’s Henoko plan.

    “Hate Speech” issues are being ignored in Japan. Those who support Japan’s military revival are quite about the “hate speech” issues. This is a truly “masochistic” way of looking towards the future, by allowing the sadistic spirit of hate and war fester unchecked until it regains its footing to turn back the clock. After 70 years what has been gained.

    Democracy is being trampled. Peoples lives are being threatened. All of the seeds of terrorism being planted. What is Prime Minister Abe hoping to harvest…

    Japan can lead the world towards a “Pacific 22nd Century”. May peace prevail on earth. The defense against terrorism needs to be made with countries in the world who stand on the side of justice and democracy. Terror will feed the spirit of hate, lead to “mistakes”, controversy and fueled by greed of a few, who will convince our youth to give their lives for empty glories past.

  • Jeffrey

    Interesting survey data. I don’t have time to go through the Pew report, but my guess is that the vast majority of those who responded favorably to the question live in the ME, S. Asia and C. Asia. What I do know about Muslims around the globe would lead me to believe that for Indonesian Muslims this would be a minority view (though statistically, even 20% is a minority view). And numerically, Indonesia is the largest Muslim majority nation.

    I’ve long said, and I’ve been studying this off and on for about 30 years, is that we, meaning the West in general and the U.S. in particular, need to disengage from the ME, Pakistan and Afghanistan if we want to remove the targets from our collective backs. That region and these nations need to be held at arms lengths. Their perceived strategic importance to us has always been overstated. The same is true for Israel.

    • Andrew