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2009年4月19日 (日)

海賊対処法案 安易な修正は避けるべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Apr. 19, 2009)
If the antipiracy bill ain't broke, don't fix it
海賊対処法案 安易な修正は避けるべきだ(4月19日付・読売社説)

Cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties is desirable to ensure the early enactment of the antipiracy bill. But such cooperation should not result in the bill being amended without due consideration, as changes could compromise the effectiveness of antipiracy measures.

Deliberations on the antipiracy bill started at the House of Representatives last week. The bill is aimed at enabling Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels to escort not only Japan-related, but also foreign ships. Also, MSDF vessels would be able to fire at pirate ships that approach and pursue commercial ships with the aim of disabling them. These are the pillars of the government-sponsored bill.

MSDF vessels are now engaged in missions to escort Japan-related ships off Somalia based on the maritime policing provision of the Self-Defense Forces Law. But these activities are stopgap measures until the new law is enacted.

The MSDF vessels have already received rescue requests from foreign vessels on two occasions and repelled the pirates with long-range acoustic devices. Their use of weapons is largely limited as it is restricted by the Mariners Law.

An early enactment of the legislation is desirable if Japan wants to ensure the effectiveness of MSDF missions.


DPJ demands impractical

Of great interest will be how negotiations on amendments to the bill between the ruling and opposition parties turn out.

The Democratic Party of Japan has asserted that an antipiracy headquarters should be established in the government, and that MSDF personnel on the mission should have dual status as members of the headquarters. The party also calls for revising the bill to require Diet approval for antipiracy operations. The current bill only requires the government to report such operations to the Diet.

But we have doubts about the DPJ's demands.

The proposed antipiracy headquarters is modeled after the International Peace Cooperation Headquarters overseeing Japan's contribution to U.N. peacekeeping activities. Such a body, however, could well be superfluous as such a task can be assumed by the Defense Ministry.

It would be most effective to place MSDF vessels on antipiracy missions under the control of the Joint Staff of the Defense Ministry. A new body could cause confusion in the chain of command.

Some DPJ members even go as far as saying that the Japan Coast Guard should play a leading role in antipiracy missions, and that MSDF members should be transferred to the JCG when taking on such missions. Their assertion stickles over the form in which the mission is conducted and is utterly nonsensical.

Behind their assertion is a notion associated with the former Japan Socialist Party that holds that "the Self-Defense Forces are bad and should not be used unless this cannot be avoided," a line of thinking that emerged in the early 1990s, underpinning calls for establishing a separate body assigned to carry out peacekeeping operations.

It is only natural to utilize the organization that is most fit for a given mission. This is why the MSDF vessels were dispatched, not JCG ships.


Diet approval problematic

The DPJ's insistence that antipiracy operations must get Diet approval is not consistent with legal provisions governing SDF mobilization.

Maritime policing activities taken when foreign ships intrude into Japan's territorial waters do not even have to be reported to the Diet. Diet approval must be sought for exceptional activities, such as the mobilization of SDF troops when Japan is attacked or under the clear threat of armed attack, and when it is deemed that Japan's public order cannot be maintained by police.

If Diet approval was required and the DPJ supported Diet approval for the current antipiracy mission, there would be no immediate problem. But such a provision could hamper Japan's efforts to deal with piracy in the future if it became rampant in a different sea zone.

The ruling parties should be aware of these problems and deal carefully with amendment negotiations with opposition parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 19, 2009)
(2009年4月19日01時28分  読売新聞)


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