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Gov’t to implement security laws after Upper House election

  • 2016-01-04 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: January 4, 2016 – p. 3)

 

 By Daisuke Yokoyama

 

 The Abe administration has decided to put off tasking the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) with new missions that will become possible after the security laws go into force by the end of March or submitting proposals to expand cooperation with the U.S. for Diet approval until after the House of Councillors election in summer. This is meant to prevent the security laws, which are not popular with the public, from becoming the focus of Diet deliberations again before the Upper House election, which will affect the ruling parties’ campaign adversely. The administration had paid no heed to calls to scrap the security bills or subject them to meticulous deliberation in the Diet even though these bills were termed unconstitutional, but was there really a need to enact these laws in a rush?

 

 Among the security laws that will authorize the exercise of the right to collective self-defense to defend other countries with force or provide logistical support to foreign forces engaged in combat, the administration would like to apply the new laws first to assign new PKO tasks to the SDF contingent engaged in road building and other operations in South Sudan. With the authorization of missions to “rush to the rescue” of foreign forces or civilians attacked in a different location and the expansion of the scope for use of weapons for the performance of duty, the government had considered adding this to the mission of the SDF contingent when the next turnover takes place in May.

 

 However, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani has issued instructions to “avoid haste and proceed carefully” in reviewing the rules of engagement, planning, and training that will be required for the new mission to be added. A senior Defense Ministry official also pointed out that “SDF members need adequate training to be able to handle complicated situations with regard to use of weapons and so forth.” The ministry is now leaning toward foregoing adding the new mission in May.

 

 The Abe administration is also putting off until after the Upper House election the procedures required to expand logistical support for U.S. forces, such as supplying ammunition, which will be authorized by the new laws. To add logistical support for the U.S. forces as an SDF mission will require the revision of the Japan-U.S. Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and Diet approval for the revision. The government has decided not to submit the ACSA revision to the regular Diet session convening on Jan. 4.

 

 The current ACSA provides for supplying fuel and other goods to U.S. forces in a conflict on Japan’s periphery, when Japan is attacked by another country, or during disasters. The contemplated revision will expand the scope to situations such as joint Japan-U.S. surveillance and reconnaissance operations or interception of ballistic missiles and will also authorize the supply of ammunition, for instance.

 

 The Abe administration had originally planned to submit the draft revision to an extraordinary Diet session last fall, but the Diet was not convened due to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tight diplomatic schedule. The draft FY2016 budget will be the top priority in the upcoming Diet session, so even if the revision is submitted, deliberations can only start in April, at the earliest. There is a growing opinion in the administration that “deliberating the security laws once again before the Upper House election should be avoided,” according to a Liberal Democratic Party Diet member involved with defense issues, and that “there is no need to force the issue before the Upper House election,” in the words of a government source. Therefore, expansion of the provision of goods to the U.S. forces is, in effect, being held back until after the election.

 

 Abe had asserted in the Diet that “in light of the changing security environment, the security laws need to be enacted as soon as possible” and had gone ahead to push the laws through the Diet. He also admitted that the public’s understanding of these laws remains inadequate and promised to continue to offer honest and patient explanations, but he is now reluctant to make this an issue in the Upper House election.

 

 As the Democratic Party of Japan, Japanese Communist Party, and other opposition parties are coordinating to field common candidates with the aim of scrapping the security laws, the Abe administration is trying to avoid giving an explanation to the people or discussing these laws.

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