Under the ruling bloc’s security bills, the Self-Defense Forces would theoretically be allowed to transport, repair or store nuclear, chemical and biological weapons for a foreign or multinational force, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told the Upper House on Wednesday.
But his statement came with an important caveat.
In reality, Nakatani emphasized, Japan would never actually carry out such an operation because the United States, Japan’s main military ally, would not ask Tokyo to do so, given the “unique nature” of nuclear weapons and Washington’s policy of not forward-deploying nuclear weapons in the Pacific.
“It’s true (that the bills) do not have any provisions to exclude particular items. However, the SDF would make an independent decision on what it would transport,” Nakatani said.
“Japan has maintained the three nonnuclear principles (of not making, possessing or bringing nuclear weapons into the country). We are not thinking about transporting nuclear weapons,” he said.
Still, Nakatani’s remarks, made in response to a question from an opposition lawmaker, could create a stir and provide ammunition to Diet members who are against the security bills.
It could also further prolong difficult deliberations in the chamber on the legislation.
Kenzo Fujisue of the Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition force, noted that the three nonnuclear principles are not enshrined in law, and the security bills themselves do not include any of the assumptions explained by Nakatani during the session.
“There are no legal restrictions. Can we stop a runaway (government)? It should be restricted by law,” Fujisue argued in the same Upper House session at the special committee on the security bills.
Under the legislation, the SDF would be allowed to provide logistic support to a foreign or multinational force engaging in a United Nations-authorized military mission, or to the U.S. military in the event that there was a situation that could lead to an armed attack against Japan if it wasn’t confronted.
The bills would also allow the SDF to provide “ammunition” to such a foreign or multinational force, but not “weapons.”
Japan isn’t currently allowed to provide either ammunition or weapons because of war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.
On Tuesday, Nakatani also caused a stir in front of the same committee. According to his definition, missiles are consumable “ammunition” and not “weapons.” Thus under the bills, the SDF would theoretically be allowed to provide missiles to a foreign or multinational force.
According to Nakatani, powerful cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells are also “ammunition” because they are “consumable supplies.”
During the same session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that cluster bombs and depleted uranium shells are not part of the SDF’s weapons cache, thus it would be impossible to provide them to a multinational force.
Opposition lawmakers, however, have criticized the Abe government’s apparent ambiguous definition of “ammunition.”
The government has insisted the logistic support role is constitutional because it says a conceptual line can be drawn between SDF logistic support and “use of force” by the multinational force in question.
Article 9 of the Constitution stipulates that the Japanese people “forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”
Opposition lawmakers have pointed out that logistics units always play a critical role in military operations and that it is impossible to separate “use of force” from potential logistics support by the SDF.