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2014年7月 2日 (水)

自衛隊発足60年 時代に合った法整備が必要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Legal arrangements needed for SDF to fully perform changing missions
自衛隊発足60年 時代に合った法整備が必要だ

Tuesday marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Self-Defense Forces. It is imperative to step up the preparation of legal arrangements that would enable them to perform their roles fully according to the changes of the times.

The past 60 years saw major changes in the government’s interpretation of the Constitution and the nation’s legal system on national security.

In 1946, one year after the end of World War II, then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida rejected rearmament by interpreting Paragraph 2, Article 9 of the Constitution—which prohibits possession of land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential—as “renouncing war for self-defense as well as the right of belligerency.”

However, following the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the government established the SDF in 1954, a move that the United States also requested, following the formation of the National Police Reserve and National Safety Forces. The government established the SDF by presenting a new interpretation of the Constitution that the right of self-defense and the existence of the SDF are recognized by the supreme law. This was a proper decision as an independent state.

Amid the ensuing confrontation between conservative and progressive elements in the Diet, the SDF continued to be criticized as “unconstitutional” and was not highly regarded.

A turning point was the end of the Cold War between Eastern and Western blocs. The SDF began to take on a new mission of international peace cooperation activities against the backdrop of frequent eruptions of regional conflicts.

After sending minesweepers to the Persian Gulf for the first time in 1991, the SDF took part in U.N. peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and elsewhere. They also engaged in refueling missions in the Indian Ocean and reconstruction assistance in Iraq following the enactment of the special antiterrorism law.

We appreciate the SDF’s steadily accumulated international contributions.

Stumbling block

Serving as a constant constraint on the SDF’s international activities was concern over whether they would amount to “an integration of the use of force,” which is banned by the Constitution. The government managed to realize the SDF activities in the Indian Ocean and Iraq by asserting that they would be limited to “noncombat zones,” a piece of last-resort logic that could be understood only domestically.

After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the significance of SDF relief activities in disaster-affected areas was recognized.

Given North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and China’s continued provocative acts around the Senkaku Islands, the SDF’s peacetime warning and surveillance mission has become even more important.

The government and ruling parties have been reviewing the constitutional interpretation to make it possible to allow a limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense. This is an indispensable step to buttress the Japan-U.S. alliance.

The range of SDF activities that would be regarded as “integration of the use of force” would be limited to action in battlegrounds, thus likely allowing “an urgent rescue mission” to help foreign troops. This will significantly contribute to expanding the SDF’s international activities.

In addition to the change in constitutional interpretation, establishment of relevant laws is essential to define SDF activities.

The government and ruling parties will tackle legislative steps in an extraordinary Diet session in autumn and onward. 政府・与党は秋の臨時国会以降、着実に取り組むべきだ。

It must be taken to heart that the Constitution will have to be revised in the near future to mention the existence of the SDF explicitly.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 1, 2014)


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