The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito remained far apart Friday over how far to expand the Self-Defense Forces’ overseas activities in line with the Abe administration’s controversial reinterpretation of the pacifist Constitution last summer.
During the second round of talks to set the basic framework for the security bills to be submitted to the current Diet session, the administration proposed drastically revising the law governing “contingencies in areas surrounding Japan” to remove a geographical limit on the SDF’s activities.
The administration also proposed authorizing the SDF to render logistic support to military allies other than the United States.
Furthermore, it wants to create a permanent law allowing the dispatch of the SDF without re-enacting special legislation each time — and without the backing of any United Nations resolutions.
The current law on contingencies in areas adjacent to Japan is designed to deal with an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, and to provide logistical support to U.S. forces when such scenarios arise. The government wants to remove the geographical limit and also enable the SDF to provide support to other military allies.
Komeito officials remained wary Friday of such proposals, questioning inconsistencies with past governments’ views on geographical limitations.
In particular, they referred to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi’s 1999 remark before the Diet that the law doesn’t allow deployment of SDF personnel to the Middle East or the Indian Ocean.
The Abe administration also proposed creating a permanent law allowing the dispatch of SDF personnel on overseas missions, so that SDF troops can be sent abroad by bypassing Diet debate and without having to re-enact special legislation each and every time.
In the past, the government has enacted special temporary laws every time Japan sent troops overseas.
In 2001, the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi enacted special temporary laws to enable the SDF to refuel U.S. military vessels in the Indian Ocean that were taking part in multinational operations in Afghanistan.
In 2003, the government enacted a similar law authorizing the dispatch of troops to Iraq for reconstruction missions.
Komeito said the party has yet to come to a conclusion over the administration’s plan to create the permanent law.
Some Komeito members said it is too soon to consider creation of a permanent law at a time when there has been no discussion on specific SDF missions overseas since July’s decision to reinterpret the Constitution.
That month, the Cabinet made a landmark decision to reinterpret the war-renouncing Constitution, including allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under attack.
Meanwhile, Kyodo News quoted an administration source as saying it may allow the dispatch abroad of SDF personnel to provide logistical support to foreign militaries engaged in fighting even without the backing of the U.N. Security Council.
The administration also plans to lift the long-standing ban on providing weapons and ammunition to foreign troops, the source said.
Komeito argues that Japan should not send SDF troops overseas to give logistical support to foreign troops engaged in hostilities unless they are operating under a U.N. resolution.
But making U.N. resolutions a requisite will set a high hurdle for any such move, a senior administration official reportedly said.
The same official noted there have been few cases in which the United Nations has passed resolutions approving the use of force.
The administration plans to submit more than 10 security-related bills to the current Diet session through June 24. They include a revision to the Self-Defense Forces Law and law on peacekeeping operations.
Until now Japan has limited SDF operations to self-defense, and logistical support to foreign troops by providing water, fuel, medicine, transportation and similar nonlethal aid.
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