By Takeo Maeda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
The Self-Defense Forces Law strictly limits the overseas deployment of SDF transport aircraft because of Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits the use of force except in cases of self-defense.
The recent dispatch of Air Self-Defense Force planes was based on Article 84-4 of the Self-Defense Forces Law, which stipulates the transportation of Japanese nationals and others in the event of an emergency, such as a disaster or disturbance, in a foreign country. This provision allows foreign nationals to board the planes and stipulates that the safety of transportation must be ensured as a requirement for dispatch.
After the Taliban declared on Aug. 15 that they had seized control of all Afghanistan, the international airport in Kabul fell into chaos, with reports of Afghans who wanted to leave the country clinging to a U.S. military transport plane as it took off. Given this, the Foreign Affairs Ministry decided at that time that safe transport was unfeasible.
According to the Defense Ministry, flying a transport plane to a neighboring country in preparation for transporting Japanese nationals is legally possible. Nevertheless, the foreign and defense ministries usually deliberate on this kind of issue prudently, as some opposition parties may be against the dispatch of SDF personnel.
Some members of the Liberal Democratic Party have begun to call for the revision of relevant laws. “It’s become clear that the current laws interfere with handling situations like the one [in Afghanistan],” one member said.