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2014年10月11日 (土)

日米防衛指針 切れ目ない共同対処を可能に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
New defense guidelines must enable seamless, effective joint cooperation
日米防衛指針 切れ目ない共同対処を可能に

It is extremely important for the new defense guidelines to enable the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. forces to act jointly and seamlessly in line with changing circumstances from peacetime to contingencies.

The Japanese and U.S. governments on Wednesday released an interim report on revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. The revisions focus on better enabling swift, flexible and effective bilateral defense cooperation between the two countries, while eventually eliminating the three classifications of circumstances — peacetime, contingencies Japan may face and contingencies in areas surrounding Japan — stipulated under the present guidelines.

Enacted in 1999 on the basis of the current guidelines that were adopted in 1997, the law concerning the nation’s response to contingencies in areas surrounding Japan is a landmark in security legislation that has established the various forms of cooperation that Japan can extend to U.S. forces, ranging from supplies to transportation, in preparation for a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

As there are strict criteria for the recognition of circumstances as a contingency in areas surrounding Japan, it can hardly be denied that the law is difficult to invoke.

Experts have also pointed out such problems as the fact that the nation cannot supply fuel even to U.S. military vessels on joint alert with the Maritime Self-Defense Force over a ballistic missile launch by North Korea.

What is urgently needed is an enhanced bilateral security system allowing the SDF and U.S. forces to cooperate closely and respond effectively to so-called gray-zone situations — which are deemed neither peacetime incidents nor contingencies — such as the occupation of remote islands by armed groups.

It is important that the interim report has stipulated that “protection of assets (including equipment)” should be included in the revised guidelines as a specific type of cooperation.

SDF scope expanded

This stipulation is based on the government’s new interpretation of the Constitution, adopted in July, which allows the SDF to protect U.S. vessels under armed attacks in gray-zone situations, in addition to enabling the nation to exercise, within a limited range, the right of collective self-defense.

The use of weapons, as permitted under such a scenario as MSDF vessels coming under armed attacks, stipulated in Section 95 of the Self-Defense Forces Law, is to be applied to the protection of U.S. military vessels.

This should be recognized as an effective move that will facilitate Japan-U.S. joint warning and surveillance activity in areas surrounding Japan, and enhance bilateral relations of trust.

Details related to the use of the right of collective self-defense are not included in the interim report. The matter has been put off until the final report, which both governments plan to decide on at the year-end. As the issue constitutes a core element of strengthening the deterrent power of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the new guidelines need to stipulate them clearly and specifically.

Also included in the interim report are the reinforcement of joint Japan-U.S. cooperation in Asia and in the world, and the promotion of trilateral and multilateral security and defense cooperation with regional allies and partners, with an eye on Australia and South Korea.

Since the current guidelines were worked out, security cooperation between Japan and the United States has expanded on a global scale, ranging from refueling in the Indian Ocean, postwar reconstruction assistance to Iraq, measures to deal with pirates and natural disaster relief efforts.

Reflecting the current state of bilateral ties and diversifying international peacekeeping cooperation in the new guidelines will be significant, as it will strengthen the value of the Japan-U.S. alliance as “a public good” that contributes to regional peace and stability.

Before releasing the interim report, the United States briefed South Korea on the contents and sought its understanding. It is quite an appropriate step. Japan, for its part, must explain in a careful manner to its neighboring countries what the nation intends to do with the guidelines and its policy for developing related legislation so as to enhance transparency in their revision.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 9, 2014)Speech


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