An important step has been taken to allow Self-Defense Forces troops to play their part in international peace cooperation activities.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada has announced a plan to start training SDF members for new missions enabled by security-related laws that took effect in March.
The Ground Self-Defense Force’s division will start training in mid-September for the new missions, consisting of rescue missions and joint protection of billeting areas, to prepare for its dispatch in November to U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Depending on the results of the training, set to take place through late October, the division is scheduled to be officially tasked with the new missions.
Lifting the ban on rescue missions is a long-awaited goal for the GSDF.
The GSDF has had no alternative but to decline rescue requests from civilians and U.N. staff under attack by armed groups, as well as from the troops of other countries, saying that it was legally impossible. Forsaking civilians in danger is problematic also from a humanitarian viewpoint.
It is impossible to build a relationship of trust with international institutions and other countries if the current situation remains unchanged.
It is highly significant that distortions in constitutional interpretation by successive governments, which deviated from international standards and were excessively restrictive, have been corrected through the Diet’s approval and enforcement of the security-related legislation.
Situations requiring rescue missions do not arise frequently but could occur at any time.
To build a system that can cope with emergencies expeditiously and adequately, it is necessary to ensure sufficient preparations and training while making greater efforts than before in gathering and analyzing information on relevant local situations.
Practical drills vital
The GSDF has already been making preparations, including reexamining the rules of engagement by its troops in regards to the requirements for and permissible limits on the use of arms. It has also been compiling teaching materials and securing instructors.
As for steps to be taken in the months to come, it is essential to conduct practical training based on various presumed scenarios, as well as to make troop operations and procedures for warning shots thoroughly known among the GSDF members to be dispatched.
Public security in South Sudan has worsened rapidly in the wake of a clash between pro-president and pro-former vice president groups in July. This forced officials of the Japan International Cooperation Agency and embassy officials, among others, to evacuate the country.
The situation is said to be currently in a temporary lull, but vigilance should be maintained. Training programs must be enhanced to minimize the risks involved in the new missions.
Even after the ban on rescue missions is lifted, constraints remain on the use of arms by GSDF troops. It is imperative for GSDF units to share knowledge with troops of other countries regarding what they can and cannot do.
The security-related legislation also made it possible for the SDF to protect U.S. warships when Japan faces situations threatening its survival and to rescue Japanese nationals overseas. The Defense Ministry will make arrangements to conduct training for these new missions from autumn onward through such programs as joint Japan-U.S. exercises.
Protection of U.S. warships, above all, is a symbolic mission for bolstering the Japan-U.S. alliance.
We want to see the cooperative relationship between the SDF and U.S. military deepened steadily through joint drills