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Will SDF be involved in conflict by security laws?

  • 2015-10-26 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: October 24, 2015 – p. 25)


 The security-related bills were passed in September. If the U.S. military sends warships to the Spratly Islands, what will be the impact on the Self-Defense Forces?


 The SDF cannot take any concrete actions until the security laws become effective. But the laws will be put into force by the end of March next year. Should the U.S. Forces intermittently continue sending its vessels to the area, it is possible that the U.S. may ask for Tokyo’s cooperation to a certain extent.


 Military commentator Tetsuo Maeda explained: “The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation re-revised in April and the security laws make the relationship between Japan and the U.S. one in which the two countries protect each other. Military cooperation between the two countries is moving forward. If the U.S. asks Japan to deploy the SDF, it would be difficult for Tokyo to refuse the request.”


 During the deliberations on the security legislation in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe explained with regard to “a situation that threatens Japan’s existence” in the South China Sea, “It is difficult to imagine (such a situation) because there are alternate routes [a ship could take]. However, in deliberations in the House of Councilors, Abe said something different: “If a situation meets the three conditions (for applying the security laws), Japan will respond (according to the security laws).”


 General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong said in Sept.: “The sea lane has a direct impact on Japan’s interests. In order to prevent a conflict in the South China Sea, it is necessary to enhance cooperation,” indicating expectations for security cooperation with Japan.


 In September there was also a foreign ministerial meeting between Japan and India. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said: “I am concerned over the continual unilateral actions in the South China Sea including large-scale reclamation and the use of the area for military purposes. This is changing the status quo and raising tensions.”


 Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said on Oct. 14 on a television program of a commercial broadcaster, “We need to fully deliberate on such situation,” showing his eagerness for reconnaissance and surveillance in the South China Sea.


 However, Japan is already in a tense relationship with China in the East China Sea. The fourth “Japan-China High-Level Consultation on Maritime Affairs” is scheduled to be held in Beijing in November to discuss the issue of gas field development. There is also the issue of establishing a “maritime communication mechanism” for avoiding an accidental military conflict. Raising the tension between Japan and China also in the South China Sea would be ill advised.


 “The U.S.’s move is for political purpose,” says Institute for Peaceful Diplomacy Representative Yoshiki Mine, a former diplomat who represented Japan in the negotiations on Japan-South Korea diplomatic normalization. “It will not likely develop into a military conflict immediately.” Mine further explained: “In the event of any conflict in the South China Sea hereafter, it is feasible that the U.S. may ask for Japan’s military cooperation, which will inevitably affect the issue of the East China Sea. It is necessary for Japan to avoid the SDF deployment through persistent diplomatic efforts.”


 The new security laws will create diplomatic difficulties, according to Mine, who went on to say, “Japan has been able to say it can’t deploy the SDF because of the constitutional restriction.” However, Mine said: “Tokyo will no longer be able to say that. Although the security laws have some merit such as Japan’s expanded response to the UN peacekeeping operation, I think the security laws should be reviewed.”

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