The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior partner, Komeito, reached an agreement Monday on legislation that would expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ activities overseas and expand the areas in which they can operate.
The agreement paves the way for the Cabinet to approve the bills Thursday and submit them to the current Diet session with the aim of opening a new chapter in Japan’s postwar security policies.
The move is expected to support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s goal of making Japan more of a “proactive contributor to peace.”
If the bills pass, cooperation between the SDF and American forces will expand in regions beyond Japan’s immediate vicinity, in accordance with the recently revised Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines.
“We believe we came up with the best possible content (for the legislation),” Masahiko Komura, vice president of the LDP and the head of the coalition talks, told reporters.
Komura made the comment following negotiations in which officials from the LDP and Komeito screened two bills prepared by the government.
One of the bills outlines new permanent legislation that would allow the SDF to provide logistics support to a foreign military in armed combat.
The other comprises revisions to 10 existing laws. One revision would alter the law on contingencies in areas around Japan that was enacted in 1999 in the event of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula.
The revised law would effectively remove the geographical constraint and allow the SDF to render rear-guard support not only to U.S. forces but also to other foreign militaries responding to “situations that gravely affect the peace and security” of Japan.
Another of the proposed reforms would allow Japan to exercise, on a limited scope, the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of a friendly nation under attack.
Exercising the right would be limited to situations that meet three basic requirements. For instance, Japan’s survival must be in jeopardy, or there must be a threat to its citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
One example of a situation that fits the criteria, according to Abe, could be a mine-sweeping operation in the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East, through which 80 percent of crude oil exports to Japan pass.
The coalition partners also agreed to create a permanent law that would allow Japan to provide fuel and ammunition to foreign militaries engaged in combat in accordance with U.N. General Assembly or U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Japan has offered overseas logistics support in the past, such as providing free refueling to support U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in the Indian Ocean near Afghanistan. But those cases required the administration in power to enact a special law each time it wanted to dispatch SDF forces.
It would no longer need to do if the permanent law is enacted. However, the government would still need to gain Diet approval before dispatching SDF units, and they would be barred from being sent to areas where combat is taking place.
Komura did not rule out the possibility the bills may be altered during Diet deliberations, where heated debate is expected as the opposition camp grills the Abe administration over the legislation.
“It is desirable for the bills to pass the Diet as they are,” he said. “But the possibility (of the bills being changed) may not be zero.”
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