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2009年3月11日 (水)

海賊対処法案 早期成立へ与野党は協力せよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun

(Mar. 11, 2009)

Opposition camp must help pass antipiracy bill

海賊対処法案 早期成立へ与野党は協力せよ(311日付・読売社説)

A bill aimed at protecting commercial vessels from pirates and securing the safety of sea-lanes is indispensable to enable Japan, a maritime power, to carry out these vital functions. The ruling and opposition parties should cooperate to pass the bill as soon as possible.


The Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, New Komeito, on Tuesday endorsed the government's bill for the antipiracy mission, which sets penalties for acts of piracy and permits the deployment of Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel to repel pirates. The bill is scheduled to be submitted to the Diet this week.


This weekend, two MSDF vessels will be dispatched to waters off Somalia in line with the maritime police action provision of the Self-Defense Forces Law.


But the execution of the MSDF dispatch under the current law is merely an ad hoc measure. A sound legal footing for the mission must be established quickly.


Under the maritime policing clause, the MSDF may only protect Japanese-registered vessels and other ships connected with Japan from pirates. The new bill, however, will enable the MSDF to help safeguard all ships, including foreign-registered civilian vessels without Japanese connections.


More than 2,000 Japanese-registered vessels or other ships with Japanese links sail in waters off Somalia each year. It is obviously impossible to protect all this shipping with the two MSDF vessels that will be dispatched. Therefore, it is vital for the MSDF vessels to share information and closely cooperate with foreign vessels and patrol planes during the antipiracy mission.


If the MSDF safeguards foreign civilian vessels, as may be necessary, international cooperation will be expanded, and the effectiveness of the MSDF's activities will be heightened.



Bill unties MSDF's hands

The new bill expands the rules of engagement to allow the MSDF to fire directly at pirate vessels that approach civilian ships.


Under the current law, the MSDF is allowed to fire warning shots. But except for acts of self-defense, the MSDF is not allowed to harm others. If the MSDF injures or kills pirates, it will bear the burden of proving that the action was carried out in self-defense. Under such circumstances, we fear officers in command may be unable to make quick decisions, meaning that the MSDF's responses to contingencies could be tardy.


The new bill stipulates that the MSDF may use lethal force by firing directly at a pirate vessel if the vessel moves toward a civilian vessel in a threatening manner, hangs around it or blocks its nautical course. We believe the new bill will enable the MSDF vessels to perform their mission effectively.


The bill does not permit the MSDF to provide fuel for foreign vessels engaged in antipiracy missions or fire at fleeing pirate vessels. Those activities and a further loosening of the rules of engagement can be examined in the future if they are found to be necessary in the course of the forthcoming dispatch.



Legislation has public backing

Although the Democratic Party of Japan holds the key to getting the bill passed soon, quite a few DPJ members have voiced opposition to it, together with other those of opposition parties, such as the Social Democratic Party, which opposes the dispatch of MSDF personnel overseas.


But the antipiracy legislation is aimed at protecting the lives and property of Japanese citizens. Playing politics with this issue will not wash. A recent survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun showed that more than 60 percent of respondents approved the dispatch of MSDF personnel to waters off Somalia and the establishment of a related law.


We hope the DPJ will display courage and flexibility by agreeing proactively to the government's proposal, which is supported by a majority of the public. The party's cooperation on this issue would also be a vote-winner in the upcoming House of Representatives election.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 11, 2009)

20093110152  読売新聞)


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