Japan’s security environment is becoming more severe. Japan should strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation, to enhance its capability to deal with various crises swiftly and effectively.
One year has passed since the security-related laws were enacted.
The security-related laws are comprehensive legislation that make it possible for the government to operate the Self-Defense Forces flexibly in accordance with how crises develop, from peacetime to such situations as the nation’s survival being threatened or Japan facing an armed attack. The SDF’s international peace cooperation activities have also been expanded. This legislation is highly significant in securing the peace of Japan and the world.
The protection of U.S. military ships is symbolic of this.
The SDF was unable to counterattack even if a U.S. military vessel was attacked nearby. Having eliminated this long-standing contradiction in the Japan-U.S. alliance can be an important step toward keeping Japan as a “nation worthy of protecting” for the United States.
In December, the government decided on procedural guidelines for the defense of U.S. warships. Early this month, two destroyers of the Maritime Self-Defense Force conducted joint drills with the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and other U.S. vessels in the East China Sea.
Regularly mobilizing these drills would solidify the relationship of trust between Japan and the United States and facilitate bilateral cooperation over missile defense and other areas. It would also likely deter reckless acts by North Korea, which is rushing ahead with its nuclear and missile development program, and provocative actions by China, which is intensifying its maritime advances.
Get ready for real operations
Drills based on the security-related legislation have been carried out since September, including drills conducted on the supposition of protecting and transporting Japanese people living abroad, as well as search-and-rescue activities. The drills include field training exercises and simulated exercises conducted by the SDF alone and joint multinational drills carried out in Thailand and Nepal.
Through these exercises, problem areas in the operation of SDF units are checked. If necessary, the implementation plan, procedures and other elements are to be reviewed. The important thing is to get ready for real operations by repeatedly and steadily conducting this cycle of activities.
In November, the Ground Self-Defense Force unit engaged in U.N. peacekeeping operations in South Sudan was assigned the additional task of “kaketsuke keigo” (rescue missions) for the first time.
It is questionable that opposition parties have loudly put forward, in the Diet and elsewhere, their irresponsible arguments suggesting the SDF would embark on extremely dangerous missions.
The primary assumptions for the rescue missions are humanitarian activities such as rescuing civilians besieged by mobs. This is primarily an emergency task common under international standards, and does not mean the SDF unit would be regularly mobilized to scenes of military conflict.
Needless to say, the missions involve risks. Discussing in a level-headed manner how such risks can be minimized is exactly what politics is responsible for.
The GSDF unit is scheduled to conclude its activities in South Sudan and withdraw at the end of May. It must comprehensively move forward with preparations related to equipment and exercises so SDF units can take on similar missions when participating in other peacekeeping operations in the future.