After the U.S. launched its "war on terror" following 9/11, activities by the Self-Defense Forces based on the Japan-U.S. alliance drastically expanded to cover areas such as the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.
During the war on terror, the government dispatched Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel U.S., British and French warships, and a permanent law enabling the dispatch of the SDF abroad was established.
The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks also shocked U.S. forces in Japan. After the attacks, a U.S. aircraft carrier departed quickly from the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, and in a rare move, an MSDF destroyer escorted the flattop.
A senior official of the MSDF familiar with the situation at the time said: "Yokosuka is close to Tokyo International Airport at Haneda. The U.S. aircraft carrier sailed out of the base to avoid possibly becoming a target of a suicide attack using an aircraft." The flattop would have been stuck at the base if it had remained there, the official noted.
Soon after the terror attacks, the United States urged its allies to support the war on terror and sought Japan’s participation in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
The government of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi decided to assist the operation, blocking the maritime transport of weapons and drugs by international terrorist group al-Qaida.
The Diet enacted a special law for the fight against terrorism in October 2001. Based on the law, a destroyer and a replenishment vessel of the MSDF were sent to the Indian Ocean the following month. The ships covered wide areas of the sea, including the Persian Gulf.
"The Japan-U.S. alliance became strong as the SDF's areas of operations expanded, with Japan playing its role as a member of the international community," Gen. Koji Yamazaki, chief of staff at the Defense Ministry's Joint Staff, said at a press conference Thursday, also referring to the dispatch of SDF troops to Iraq to help its postwar reconstruction.
At a news conference Friday, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said, "The Defense Ministry and the SDF, building on their activities to date, will contribute further to the international community by making good use of our country's strength."
There were concerns that the SDF's logistical support for the U.S. military's operations at the time could result in the violation of the Constitution's pacifist Article 9, which bans Japan from being integrated with the use of force by a foreign country.
There was suspicion at the time that fuel given to U.S. warships from the MSDF was used for the war in Iraq.
In 2008, the Nagoya High Court ruled that the Air Self-Defense Force's transportation of armed troops from multinational forces during the mission in Iraq was unconstitutional, concluding that the act was integrated with the use of force by foreign countries.
In 2015, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had national security laws enacted, including a permanent law on contributions to international peace, which allows the SDF to offer logistical support for multinational forces abroad.
The law specifically allows the dispatch of SDF troops overseas to provide foreign forces with logistical support, provided there are relevant U.N. resolutions or consent from countries hosting the SDF.
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