Japan-U.S. defense cooperation to have global reach

Sunday 12 October 2014

Date: 09 October 2014

Type: News

Source: The Asahi Shimbun

Keywords: Japan military

Expanded Japan-U.S. defense cooperation on a global basis forms the core of an interim report on bilateral defense guidelines released Oct. 8 that was heavily colored by a sharp shift in Japan’s policy three months ago.

In July, the Abe Cabinet approved a change in the long-held government interpretation of the Constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

That opened the door for greater defense cooperation between the allies that goes way beyond the geographical limits in the current Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, which were last revised in 1997.

The latest interim report reflects the new policy, although political reality meant many details about defense cooperation will be left for the final report that is due out before the end of the year.

The lack of details reflects the divided thinking within the government and ruling coalition over how Japan ought to work with Washington in defense matters.

Junior coalition partner Komeito, with its roots in pacifism, only grudgingly went along with the landmark decision on collective self-defense.

Its members are still wary about expanding the range of cooperation the Self-Defense Forces can provide the U.S. military or of deploying SDF members abroad in a more aggressive fashion.

Within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as well as among officials of the foreign and defense ministries, there are those who want to write new legislation to allow for greater defense cooperation as well as the dispatch of SDF members. Until now, special laws have been passed to dispatch SDF personnel overseas. On each occasion, limits were placed on both where the members would be sent and for how long.

Some officials want a new permanent law that would allow SDF members to be dispatched whenever the need arises.

The Abe administration initially indicated it would begin work on new legislation to allow for the exercise of the right to collective self-defense in the extraordinary Diet session now under way.

However, that work has been put off until after spring 2015 because of concerns undue haste could unleash differences of opinion on the issue within the ruling coalition.

Ruling party officials are anxious to avoid any situation that could affect the Okinawa gubernatorial election slated for November and unified local elections scheduled for next spring.

As officials of Japan and the United States hammer out the details for the final report on defense cooperation, the government and ruling coalition will also be working on the wording of the legislation that would be needed to implement what is included in the final report.

The interim report released Oct. 8 does state that support for the U.S. military would be expanded to a global scale as long as such action did not involve the use of force on the part of the SDF.

The report also deleted reference to Japanese cooperation in "areas surrounding Japan," a geographical limitation that was included when the guidelines were revised in 1997.

The interim report paves the way for SDF personnel and equipment to be sent anywhere in the world to assist the U.S. military as long as the new conditions on the use of force are not breached.###

See online : The Asahi Shimbun

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