(Akahata: November 17, 2015 – p. 2)
While Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. forces are integrating their command operations through the Alliance Coordination Mechanism (ACM), Japan has been dispatching SDF staff to U.S. commands overseas, facilitating the integration of the two units on a global scale. The move is aimed at establishing common understanding of developments in advance, as the war legislation allows the two countries to conduct joint overseas operations and establish joint commands overseas.
According to documents released by the Ministry of Defense, a total of 28 SDF officers were stationed at U.S. operational commands in Japan as of January this year. The Pacific Command has the largest number of SDF staff, at 8. The Central Command has 2 SDF officers.
In recent years, the SDF is sending its liaison officers to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force in Washington D.C.
PACOM accommodates the largest number of SDF officers. It covers about half of the globe, from the West Coast of the U.S. mainland to the Indian Ocean. It commands and controls line troops of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan. The risk lingers that the SDF may be effectively placed under its control through the ACM.
Last year, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dispatched a SDF liaison officer to the Seventh Fleet command, a core unit of PACOM. The officer is believed to be conducting intelligence gathering on the front lines, as Japan and the U.S. envisage setting up joint units based on the war legislation provisions that call for protecting weapons for the U.S. forces and others.
Sohei Nihi, a House of Councillors member from the Japanese Communist Party, revealed the minutes of a meeting between Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff, joint staff at the SDF, and Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff during a Diet session. According to the record, Kawano said, “We are looking to step up our collaboration with PACOM, CENTCOM and AFRICOM in the future,” expressing his intention to also send liaison officers to the Africa Command.
His comment suggests that the SDF is looking to send troops to Africa in addition to the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. (Slightly abridged)