WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Armed Services Committee, expressed hope that the SDF will be operating in the Middle East and the South China Sea under Japan’s new security policy.
The senior politician, who has a heavy influence on defense and foreign policy, also said in an interview that the Self-Defense Forces might take part in combat in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.
McCain made the comments Tuesday as Japan seeks to revise the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines in a way that allows the SDF to expand its overseas activities with the U.S. military. This revision reflects Japan’s controversial security shift under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow the use of collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of an ally under armed attack even when Japan itself is not under direct attack. Until last year, collective defense was considered banned under the war-renouncing Constitution.
The senator from Arizona signaled his hope that Japan and other countries will cooperate in making sure that an “international transit point is kept free for navigational purposes” in the Strait of Hormuz, a vital sea lane used to transport the crude oil on which Japan and other nations depend.
On the territorial disputes in the South China Sea involving China and nations in Southeast Asia, McCain said, “Hopefully, those differences can be resolved peacefully.”
“But I think that it is important to have a security component, and part of that is United States-Japan partnership in exercises and other areas of cooperation,” the Vietnam War veteran said.
McCain, 78, dismissed the view that Japan’s participation in such operations may cause a confrontation between Japan and China.
“I think that, as long as they’re in international waters, that Japan should be able to send their ships wherever they want to,” McCain said.
The lawmaker also said that if North Korea were to attack South Korea, it is desirable for Japan to provide supplies and additional assets.
“Frankly it is not Japanese troops that are south of the 38th parallel. It’s American troops if there was a major confrontation,” McCain said, referring to the heavily fortified North-South demarcation line.
Although Japanese troops did not engage in fighting in the Korean War, McCain said: “I would probably suspect that that wouldn’t be the case in the future.”
The senator also urged Japan and South Korea to improve their strained ties by settling disputes over history, including the issue of “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemism for the thousands of females forced to provide sex to Imperial troops in Japan’s wartime military brothels. Many of those women were from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.