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Japan to set rules on SDF disaster relief missions

Tokyo, March 10 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday that his ministry will work with other government bodies and local governments to compile manuals on disaster relief missions by the Self-Defense Forces, including the timing of ending such operations.

“While the SDF should take initial responses to natural disasters with maximum efforts, we need to clarify when the SDF will exit from disaster relief missions,” Kono told a press conference.

SDF members will be sent for disaster relief operations if it is judged that they are urgent and have a public nature, are cannot be conducted by groups other than the SDF.

As SDF members are used to engage in crisis responses, they are tasked with various operations, sources familiar with the situation said. While SDF members are dispatched for disaster relief at the request of local governments in affected regions, making withdrawal decisions is difficult, the sources said.

When SDF troops were sent to the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was recently quarantined off Japan over the COVID-19 new coronavirus, officials of the Defense Ministry and the SDF discussed whether the troops could be replaced by others, the sources said.

By Tuesday, the SDF has sent a total of 2,700 members to the cruise ship. It also dispatched 2,200 members to accommodation facilities that accepted people who returned to Japan from China, where the virus originated, on flights chartered by the Japanese government in order to provide necessary support.

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