NAHA, OKINAWA PREF. – Self-Defense Forces personnel on Monday carried out their first joint exercise with the U.S. military to simulate new duties allowed under security legislation that took effect earlier this year.
The exercise began near a small island off the east coast of Okinawa Island based on a scenario in which the SDF comes to the rescue of crew members of a downed U.S. military plane in the sea during an outbreak of fighting abroad that has a significant impact on Japan’s peace and security.
SDF personnel were previously allowed to rescue U.S. soldiers in areas surrounding Japan under certain specific contingencies, but the new security legislation enables the SDF to work with the U.S. military in a wider area of the globe under a wider set of circumstances.
While the SDF has already carried out exercises for missions in which it is newly able to engage during U.N. peacekeeping operations under the security legislation, it had not conducted any exercises to help the U.S. military in the event of an incident in areas other than those “surrounding Japan.”
The new security legislation, which took effect in March, also expands the SDF’s role in providing logistical support to the militaries of other countries in addition to the United States, which is Japan’s closest security ally, when Japan’s peace and security are deemed to be under threat.
In such circumstances, the SDF will be able to provide fuel and other supplies, excluding weapons, to foreign militaries in places free from hostilities.
Monday’s joint exercise took place in the ocean off Ukibaru Island, and will be followed by a larger joint exercise to be held Wednesday that the media will not be allowed to cover.
Wednesday’s drill is to be held based on a scenario of the two countries rescuing a number of injured people afloat at sea by deploying aircraft, including a Japanese US-2 amphibious aircraft.
The exercises are part of Keen Sword, a joint drill that began Oct. 30 involving around 25,000 SDF members and 11,000 U.S. military personnel.
The SDF began training in August to put into practice a series of changes brought about by the new security legislation, through which the government hopes Japan will play a more active role in regional security and international peace-building efforts.
Despite the new law, the SDF faces stricter limits than other countries’ militaries on its use of weapons overseas, as Japan’s Constitution bans the use of force as a means of settling international disputes.