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2008年10月11日 (土)


2008/10/11 --The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 10(IHT/Asahi: October 11,2008)

EDITORIAL: MSDF's refueling mission


With a Lower House election looming, the calculated maneuverings so common in politics have increased in scale. However, the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito and opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) were far too opportunistic in the way they dealt with the bill to revise the anti-terrorism special measures law.


The bill will extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean for another year.


We are particularly appalled at Minshuto's about-face. In last year's Diet sessions, the largest opposition party strongly opposed the extension of the MSDF's mission, saying it violates the Constitution. It demanded thorough deliberations, which were carried over to the following year.

Although Minshuto also opposes the bill this time around, the party proposed that a vote be taken after only two days of deliberations in the Lower House.


Minshuto is also ready to agree to an early vote in the Upper House. Thus, the bill is set to pass the Lower House but is expected to be rejected in the opposition-controlled Upper House.

However, the ruling parties will pass the bill by reapproving it in the Lower House, where they hold an overwhelming majority. The bill will likely become law by the end of the month.


Minshuto is apparently determined to stop Prime Minister Taro Aso and the LDP from using discussions on the bill as an excuse to delay the dissolution of the Lower House for a snap election. Even so, Minshuto's tactic of trying to hastily handle the bill is questionable.


Last year, Minshuto submitted an anti-terrorism bill centering on civilian aid in Afghanistan as an alternative to the MSDF's refueling activities. Why doesn't the party press the point again in the Diet to win public support?


Critics argue that as the security situation in Afghanistan worsens, civilian aid advocated by Minshuto would be difficult and its proposal would be tantamount to doing nothing. Some Minshuto lawmakers also say the refueling activities are more realistic.


Some people even suspect that Minshuto is trying to quickly end deliberations on the pretext of demanding an early Lower House dissolution because it lacks the confidence to squarely push for its alternative plan.


The ruling parties are no better. Aso persisted on deliberating the bill because he wanted to use it to attack Minshuto in the election campaign with the question: "Is Minshuto pushing for a Japan that does nothing in the war on terror?"


New Komeito, which was reluctant to put the bill to a vote for a second time in the Lower House, also changed its attitude. Observers suspect the change is based on the party's desire for an early dissolution.


Although it has been seven years since the collapse of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan remains in turmoil. Moreover, political instability has spread to neighboring Pakistan, which possesses nuclear weapons.


How can we change this situation and get the "war on terror" back on a desirable track? What should Japan do? These are the points that need to be discussed.


While the refueling mission is a form of contribution that Japan can make under the Constitution, debate should not be narrowed to its propriety alone. It is shameful to use the issue as a bargaining chip over the timing of a Lower House dissolution.


The ruling and opposition camps should put their cases before voters in the election campaign. Debate should be advanced under a new administration to seek an agreement. There is still time before the anti-terrorism law expires in January.



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