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2008年12月27日 (土)

ソマリア沖海賊 迅速な海自派遣を目指せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 27, 2008)

Send MSDF to fight piracy off Somalia soon

ソマリア沖海賊 迅速な海自派遣を目指せ(1227日付・読売社説)

It may be unavoidable for Japan to send Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to fight piracy off Somalia in accordance with existing law, if a new law for this purpose cannot be enacted on time.


Prime Minister Taro Aso on Friday instructed Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada to study the dispatch of MSDF ships on antipiracy missions under the Self-Defense Forces Law.


There are two proposals within the government for sending MSDF vessels. One urges the enactment of a new law for this purpose, while the other calls for invoking the maritime policing activity clause of the SDF Law.


It is desirable to enact a new law, but it will take time to do so. If the Diet starts deliberating on a bill for the law after passing the fiscal 2009 budget in the next ordinary session, the law's enactment will come in April at the earliest.



Existing law poses 2 problems

But dealing with antipiracy missions within the framework of the existing law would create two problems.


One is that the MSDF vessels would be able to escort only Japanese-registered vessels, ships operated by Japanese companies and foreign ships with Japanese on board. Japan's relationship of trust with other countries would be compromised if MSDF vessels were powerless to protect foreign ships at a time when Japanese ships were being protected by other countries' military vessels.


The other problem is that the use of arms by MSDF sailors would be restricted. The sailors would be able to fire warning shots or launch counterattacks in self-defense, but prohibited from firing shots for the purpose of inflicting damage on pirate ships. A number of situations might arise in which MSDF commanders in charge would waver in making judgments.


It would be difficult to effectively crack down on pirates, who are armed with heavy weaponry, including rocket launchers, in this situation. Under no circumstances should the safety of MSDF personnel be put in jeopardy because of restrictions imposed on them by law.



Preparations should start now

If an antipiracy law was enacted, it would enable MSDF vessels to escort foreign ships and fire at pirate ships in the course of carrying out their missions.


The government and ruling parties should begin negotiations with the opposition camp so the Diet can commence work to legislate such a law at an early stage of the next ordinary session.


Damages from piracy in the waters off Somalia have increased in number and scale, posing a serious problem.


As of Wednesday, 109 piracy cases had been reported this year, a 2.5-fold increase from last year. Among the 42 ships hijacked in 2008, 14 are still in the hands of pirates, with 269 crew members being held hostage.


There have only been three cases this year in which Japanese-related ships were attacked by pirates. But it would come as no surprise to hear news of such ships having suffered serious damage.


Naval ships from about 20 nations are already engaged in escort and patrol activities in the pirate-infested sea zone. China has dispatched three warships to the area.


As it stands now, it is essential for the government to act speedily. The government should expedite necessary preparations--such as the dispatch of personnel on a fact-finding mission and the training of MSDF troops for antipiracy missions--for sending MSDF vessels in accordance with the SDF Law as a stopgap measure for several months until new legislation is in place.


The MSDF has the option of sending P-3C reconnaissance planes in addition to vessels for antipiracy operations. To fulfill its international responsibilities, Japan must consider various possible measures.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 27, 2008)

200812270137  読売新聞)


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