National / Politics

Komeito agrees to permanent law on dispatch of SDF

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, agreed in principle Wednesday on a framework for security legislation to expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ activities, including a permanent law for overseas dispatches to provide logistic support to foreign militaries.

Compiled by LDP Vice President Masahiko Komura and Komeito deputy chief Kazuo Kitagawa, the framework will be formally approved at a meeting scheduled for Friday after internal discussions by each party, officials said.

The framework is in line with a move by the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last summer to allow the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense, and it would see the scope of SDF activities expand in several areas.

Calling for further contributions to peace and security in the international community, the framework proposes creating permanent legislation to render logistic support to foreign militaries.

The envisioned law would enable dispatching SDF elements without having to enact special legislation each time. Until now, the government has passed individual temporary laws in order for troops to be sent abroad. The laws have a time limit, so they must be extended with a Diet vote to keep the missions going.

The framework would maintain some limits. For instance, it says that dispatching SDF personnel abroad would still require advance Diet approval each time, and that their activities must be based on a U.N. Security Council resolution.

It also calls for revising relevant laws to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, building in three conditions for the use of force that were introduced when the Constitution was reinterpreted last summer.

One of the items in the framework calls for responses to so-called “gray zone” national security incidents and proposes legislation that would enable the SDF to defend warships and other assets of the U.S. military contributing to the defense of Japan.

It also calls for revising the current law on contingencies in areas adjacent to Japan, so that the SDF can provide support to the U.S. and other militaries in situations that greatly influence the nation’s peace and stability, removing the geographical constraint.

The framework calls for revisions of relevant laws to enable a number of activities, such as expanding the scope of ship inspections by the SDF, which is currently restricted to “Japanese waters or on the surrounding high seas.”

It proposes enabling the SDF to rescue Japanese nationals caught up in overseas emergencies, in which the use of weapons would be authorized under certain conditions.

The framework also calls for the creation of three principles to expand SDF activities abroad, which Komeito insists must be included in the legislation.

Those principles are: the dispatch is consistent with international law; maintaining civilian control and public support; and implementing necessary measures to ensure the safety of SDF personnel deployed overseas.

Komura and Kitagawa said the ruling parties hope to start discussions by mid-April on the necessary legislation, which the administration will prepare based on their suggestions.

The administration plans to submit more than 10 security-related bills to the Diet during the current session, which runs through June 24.