The central government is considering allowing the Self-Defense Forces to gather intelligence for foreign militaries as part of expanded logistical support as Japan seeks to boost its military missions abroad, a government source said.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to state the change in a permanent law to be drafted to govern the dispatch overseas of SDF forces, the source said Tuesday.
Japan has only allowed intelligence gathering for the purpose of self-defense, due mainly to the war-renouncing Constitution that bans not only using force to settle international disputes but also assisting the use of force by foreign countries.
Removing the country’s long-standing ban could raise concerns among lawmakers from Komeito, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s junior coalition partner, as intelligence-gathering for foreign militaries may lead to Japan’s involvement in the use of force by foreign countries.
The government argues that the SDF’s intelligence-gathering would not violate the Constitution. Even if the plan is approved by the ruling bloc, the SDF would not gather or provide information that could prompt foreign counterparts to launch an armed attack, the source said.
Options being considered include the overseas dispatch of Aegis-equipped ships loaded with high-tech radar as well as P-3C surveillance aircraft for gathering intelligence.
The government is expected to submit a series of security-related bills to the current Diet session through June 24, which would revise the laws to deal with situations in areas around Japan, and to send SDF troops for peacekeeping operations.
The legislative work comes after the Cabinet approved a controversial reinterpretation of the Constitution last July to enable the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, as part of a broader overhaul of Japan’s postwar security policies.
The Cabinet decision states that the SDF can extend logistical support in areas that are “not currently at war.”
The government has already sounded out senior lawmakers from the ruling bloc about the plan, seeking to reach an agreement on an outline of security legislation.
In the past, Japan enacted special time-limited laws when it sent SDF personnel for refueling missions to support U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, and for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
SDF forces have been cooperating with foreign counterparts on information gathering in an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia, interpreted as within the limits of policing, rather than an exercise of force to settle international conflicts.
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