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It has been reported that the Self-Defense Forces’ Joint Staff Office is demanding that civilian officials in the Defense Ministry’s internal bureaus delegate to it a significant portion of their power over deciding the SDF’s highest-level operation plan. If this were to take place, uniformed SDF officers’ power could become lopsidedly big, undermining a key layer of civilian control of the SDF’s operations.

The Abe administration cannot be too careful in handling the demand by the Joint Staff Office, which is dominated by uniformed officers. The administration has already amended a Defense Ministry law to abolish the organizational supremacy of civilian defense officials over uniformed officers. The call by the Joint Staff Office, if accepted, carries the risk of significantly weakening the check of SDF officers by civilians, giving the former the upper hand in making decisions on the SDF’s operations.

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