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2013年4月21日 (日)

邦人陸送法案 自衛隊の活動拡充を着実に

The Yomiuri Shimbun April 21, 2013
Govt should steadily expand scope of SDF's authorized activities
邦人陸送法案 自衛隊の活動拡充を着実に(4月20日付・読売社説)

To ensure competent crisis management, the government must plan for a variety of emergencies and prepare a legal framework that will allow the Self-Defense Forces to properly respond to such situations.

The government has submitted a bill to the Diet to revise the SDF law that would enable the SDF to provide ground transportation for Japanese nationals in the event of emergencies abroad. Under the current law, the SDF can only use aircraft and ships to transport citizens; the use of vehicles is not permitted.

The Algerian hostage crisis in January broke out at a location about 50 kilometers from an international airport. In this case, the Algerian government transported Japanese citizens to the airport, but such arrangements may not be available in every country.

In light of the situation, a government task force proposed in a report that the government consider allowing ground transportation by the SDF. A working group of the ruling parties has also called for such legal revisions.

Draft revisions encouraging

The draft revisions call for adding overland transportation of Japanese nationals abroad to the scope of SDF missions. With the revisions, eligibility for such SDF protection will extend beyond Japanese expatriates to their families in Japan, who will want to reach them as soon as possible in case of emergencies, as well as company employees and others accompanying such family members, and Foreign Ministry officials. These changes are encouraging.

As it is the government's duty to help secure the safety of Japanese abroad, it should strive to swiftly enact the bill.

In April 2004, a series of kidnappings of foreigners took place in Iraq. At one point, Ground Self-Defense Force members took journalists who were covering their base in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah to a nearby airport. The SDF later had to explain the action, which was technically not allowed by law, saying the ground transportation was a public relations activity.

The current legal framework that forces the SDF to make such excuses to perform its duties needs to be improved. It is also essential for the GSDF to have the ability to conduct necessary training and research on emergency ground transportation if such rescues are considered part of its official mission.

Use of force still up in air

Still other challenges remain that must be addressed.

The legal revisions do not address the current restriction on the use of force by SDF personnel. The current law allows SDF members to use weapons only for limited purposes such as self-defense. Without a looming physical threat, they cannot use weapons. This means the SDF would also be subject to this restriction during overland transport of Japanese nationals. SDF members would not be able to even fire a warning shot if their vehicle is obstructed during the course of a mission.

SDF overseas missions must be sanctioned by their host countries. Therefore, the use of force by members cannot be expanded haphazardly.

However, the current legal framework that forbids SDF members from providing aid despite local residents' requests for help has caused many problems.

In December 2002, a GSDF unit that was participating in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in East Timor was asked by a Japanese restaurant owner to rescue Japanese nationals caught in a riot in Dili. The unit managed to transport 17 Japanese citizens to its base in the name of securing the safety of its off-duty members.

Although the government and ruling parties have chosen to postpone a decision on this matter, they should seriously consider expanding the authorized use of force by the SDF in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 20, 2013)
(2013年4月20日01時36分  読売新聞)


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