Defense Minister Gen Nakatani admitted Wednesday that the ministry’s Joint Staff Office created an internal document in late May about expanding overseas operations of the Self-Defense Forces, based on the assumption that security legislation currently under debate in the Upper House would be enacted.
Nakatani, however, dismissed claims from the opposition camp that the move disregards Diet discussion of the bills and violates civilian control of the SDF, saying the document was made merely to inform ministry officials about the contents of the bills.
“I believe it is a matter of course (for the Joint Staff) to marshal future agendas,” Nakatani said during an Upper House special committee on the security bills. “It is not something that prejudged the legislation’s enactment.”
The 49-page internal document about the revised Japan-U.S. defense guidelines and the security bills, was revealed during the special committee on Aug. 11 by Akira Koike, policy committee chair of the Japanese Communist Party.
The document includes provisional schedules for the SDF up until October of next year, under the assumption that the bills would be enacted in the Diet in August, and come into force in February next year.
According to Nakatani, he ordered the Defense Ministry’s senior officials to analyze and study the contents of the legislation and inform SDF personnel on May 16, a day after the bills were approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Given the order, Joint Staff prepared the document to explain the security legislation at a teleconference on May 26 that some 350 ministry officials attended, including commanders in chief of the SDF.
“The document is within the range of what I ordered them to do,” Nakatani said. “The document does not include things that will be needed after enactment of the bills, such as drawing up operational procedures and plans for training. And there is no problem from the aspect of civilian control.”
Nakatani said even though the document doesn’t include any secret information, it was extremely regrettable that it had leaked outside the ministry.
The security bills that the Abe administration plans to pass during the current Diet session, which has been extended through Sept. 27, would greatly expand the scope of overseas operations for the SDF. Among other things, they would enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense, or coming to the aid of friendly nations under attack even if Japan itself is not.
Due to strong resistance from the opposition camp over the legislation, the committee has not held a session since Aug. 11.
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