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2009年3月 3日 (火)



--The Asahi Shimbun, March 2(IHT/Asahi: March 3,2009)

EDITORIAL: SDF's use of weapons


Two Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers in mid-March will head for waters off Somalia to protect Japanese commercial ships from pirates. The deployment is based on a provision for maritime security operations under the Self-Defense Forces Law.


In a move separate from this stopgap action, the government has hammered out an outline of new legislation on the rules for Japan's anti-piracy activities.


The law would allow the Japan Coast Guard and the MSDF to crack down on criminal acts of piracy. Unlike maritime security operations, anti-piracy activities under the new law would involve guarding foreign as well as Japanese commercial vessels.


But the new law would only cover policing actions to fight piracy. Basically, the MSDF would be expected to support the coast guard in situations beyond the latter's capabilities.


The government should have had such legislation enacted before deploying MSDF ships on the anti-piracy mission instead of using the existing legal provision for maritime security operations.


The focus of debate on the anti-piracy bill, which is in the final stage of drafting, concerns the rules of engagement. Under what circumstances should the SDF be allowed to use weapons while dealing with pirates?


SDF personnel deployed overseas are allowed to make minimum necessary use of their weapons only for legitimate self-defense purposes and in acts of necessity. But the current rules may not enable MSDF ships to make effective responses to pirate vessels that ignore warning shots.


An agreement is now emerging within the ruling camp to allow the SDF to open fire on pirate ships even on the high seas when they refuse orders to stop and flee. This is an approach in line with the rules of engagement for coast guard patrol vessels handling suspicious ships.


Even if this step is necessary for effective efforts to stop piracy, clear and detailed rules should be firmly established to prevent any excessive use of arms.


The envisioned law would not require advance approval by the Diet for sending MSDF ships on an anti-piracy mission. The government would only need to report the basic plans for such operations to the Diet. SDF activities overseas, especially maritime operations, tend to elude public scrutiny. It is vital to work out a reliable system for civilian control that allows the Diet to effectively check SDF anti-piracy operations.


An alarming move related to the new legislation that should not be overlooked has emerged among lawmakers, mainly within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.


These lawmakers are trying to take advantage of the new legislation to ease the rules for weapons use by SDF personnel deployed overseas.


Very tight restrictions have been imposed on use of weapons by SDF troops engaged in overseas operations, such as United Nations peacekeeping activities and missions in Iraq.


The restrictions are intended to prevent the use of military force banned by the Constitution. Some within the Defense Ministry and the LDP complain that the tough restrictions are unnecessarily narrowing the scope of SDF international activities.


But this issue demands careful debate from the viewpoints of the international roles Japan should play under the Constitution, the SDF's capabilities and the needs of the international community. It is wrongheaded to argue that what the SDF is allowed to do in its anti-piracy operations should also be allowed for other kinds of missions.


The issue of weapons use in anti-piracy operations should be clearly separated from the rules for SDF participation in international peacekeeping activities in general. The Diet needs to make this point clear in its deliberations on the anti-piracy bill.



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« 保育制度改革―「未来への投資」を急げ | トップページ | 世界同時株安 3月危機回避に全力挙げよ »