(Nikkei: March 23, 2016 – p. 4)
The government will consider having Japan take part in antiterrorism operations, focusing on the waters off Somalia, once the security legislation goes into effect on March 29 to allow the Self-Defense Forces to conduct ship inspections as part of efforts to ensure international peace and security. As the SDF has experience with dealing with anti-piracy operations there, the government will make a decision based on requests from the U.S. and other countries. It will prioritize allowing the SDF to play new roles in areas that can contribute to international cooperation, such as working with foreign militaries to guard barracks housing personnel in U.N. peacekeeping operations.
The security legislation will broaden the scope of ship inspection activities beyond Japan. Previously they were limited to situations that concern Japan’s peace and security and take place in areas surrounding Japan. But under the new scheme, the SDF can inspect ships if situations arise that threaten international peace and security and have a grave impact on Japan’s peace and security.
The government is focusing on the Combined Task Force 150, U.S.-led multinational anti-terrorism operations in the Middle East. The operations were established based on a UN Security resolution adopted to respond to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and is tasked with inspecting ships to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the transfer of personnel and weapons from international terrorist organizations. The view is widely shared among legislators that Japan can take part in the CTF 150 as it is based on a UN resolution and the government views a UN resolution as a prerequisite for dealing with situations where international peace and security is at a greater risk and the international community needs to collectively address.
The SDF launched anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in 2009 to protect commercial ships from piracy attacks. The number of piracy attacks off Somalia dropped to zero in 2015, from 237 cases in 2011. To deal with pirates, SDF personnel are allowed to use force only for the purpose of self-defense and evacuation in the event of an emergency. This restriction remains the same as in the case of ship inspections.
There is a prevalent view within the government that it will be difficult to deploy an additional warship for ship inspections and this may lead to terminating anti-piracy operations. The government will make a decision by gauging SDF’s preparedness and requests from the international community. (Abridged)