I have previously blogged about Japan slowly returning to “normal nation” status in the international community. I believe that Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF) will play a larger role “militarily” in the years to come, especially since there is nervous talk in Tokyo regarding the US-Japan security relationship. The article below is another example of how Japan will test the constitutional waters regarding the SDF’s use of force.
This in from the ASAHI : The government, now studying measures [to protect Japanese tankers and other commercial ships] against pirates that are rampant in waters off the coast of Somalia, has released a view allowing the Self-Defense Forces to use weapons in order to crack down on pirates there. The government says the SDF’s use of weapons for that purpose does not fall under the constitutional prohibition of Japan from using armed force overseas. However, the pirates in the offing of Somalia are armed with rockets and other weapons. Moreover, the pirates are organized. The SDF’s use of weapons against armed pirates will therefore likely result in a full-fledged battle with them. There are many challenges in store, such as what to do about guidelines for weapons use or the rules of engagement (ROE).In a meeting yesterday of the House of Representatives Security Affairs Committee, former Defense Agency Director General Gen Nakatani, a House of Representatives member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, interpellated the government about constitutional problems. Tsuneyuki Yamamoto, director general of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau First Department, replied: “In case an order has been issued for maritime security operations, SDF personnel’s use of weapons within the bounds of the Policemen’s Duty Performance Law does not conflict with Article 9 of the Constitution.” The government’s interpretation is that launching an attack against “a state or a state-like organization” falls under the constitutionally prohibited use of armed force but the SDF’s use of weapons against a private group of pirates cannot be called unconstitutional. In case the defense minister issued an order for maritime security operations, SDF personnel—as well as police officers—are allowed to use weapons if and when those believed to be vicious criminals resist.
However, the current maritime security operations are to be conducted in order to protect the lives and assets of Japanese nationals. The Defense Ministry deems it difficult to conduct maritime security operations against pirates that attack foreign vessels. The government and a nonpartisan group of lawmakers are therefore looking into the option of creating a special measures law for antipiracy activities off Somalia or a permanent law to crack down on piracy.