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2014年6月 6日 (金)


June 05, 2014
EDITORIAL: Move to expand SDF role in U.N. missions raises fresh concerns

The Abe administration has made a radical and worrisome new proposal concerning the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ support to U.N.-authorized military operations by multinational forces.
The proposal, presented June 3 in talks between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, would drastically change the government’s traditional policy concerning the issue.
The envisioned new rules regulating the SDF’s cooperation with military operations sanctioned by a U.N. resolution would scrap the geographical restriction on the SDF’s activities based on the concept of “noncombat zone.” This concept was introduced in 2004 for the deployment of SDF troops to Iraq to support recovery efforts following the U.S.-led war.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has proposed to make it possible for the SDF to provide medical and logistics support to foreign troops operating in combat zones. For instance, the SDF would be able to provide water, fuel and transportation to foreign troops and treat injured soldiers, according to the administration’s plan.

Such SDF activities would concern “collective security” under the U.N. framework, which is a different notion from Japan’s right to collective self-defense.

There is perhaps room for debate on Japan’s international cooperation in such situations. But Abe’s proposal is too radical a departure from the government’s traditional position and would decisively change the SDF’s role.

The administration says it will maintain the position that Article 9 of the Constitution bans the SDF from providing any support that is integrated with the exercise of force by other countries.

Four criteria would be introduced to define this situation. They include that the recipient of the SDF’s support is currently involved in a state of hostilities and that the items the SDF provides are used directly in the battle. However, the SDF’s support would be considered as integrated with the use of force by other countries only when the situation fits all four criteria, according to the administration’s proposal. The SDF would be allowed to provide support if any of the four criteria are not fulfilled.

Even under the new rules, the SDF would not be able to provide ammunition directly to foreign forces in action. But the SDF would be allowed to provide most other forms of support to foreign troops even in combat areas.

From the viewpoint of the enemy forces, the rule that the SDF can only provide rear-area support that is not integrated with the exercise of force by other countries would be simply meaningless.

As the scope of SDF operations would be expanded to areas that are very close to the front lines of battle, the probability of SDF personnel getting involved in combat would increase markedly.

Critics of the restriction on SDF operations based on the concept of “integration” argue this idea, adopted only by Japan, has imposed unreasonable restraints on the SDF’s activities overseas.

As long as the Japanese Constitution includes Article 9 as it is, however, there should inevitably be certain restraints on the SDF’s activities.

The government’s proposal would narrow down to extremes the scope of the concept of backup logistic support integrated with the use of force by other countries. It could effectively hollow out the war-renouncing Article 9.

Another disturbing possibility is that Japan could be pressured by the United States into supporting its military operations in conflicts such as its war with Iraq, which was launched by the Bush administration without any clear sanction by the United Nations.

Given all these concerns, it is not surprising that New Komeito was taken aback by the sudden proposal by the Abe administration and expressed skepticism.

The proposal needs to be debated in a cautious manner.

In a news conference in May, Abe stressed that the protection of people’s lives and security remain the focus of his administration’s discussions over key security policy issues.

But the series of proposals his government has put forward, including the expansion of the scope of SDF operations to eliminate mines in the Persian Gulf and to widen support to multilateral forces, appears to be only drifting away from the guiding principle.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 5


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