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Editorial: Strictly enforce security legislation while considering SDF risks

Preparations are underway to fully enforce the security-related legislation that has opened the way for Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and broaden the scope of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) activities overseas.

The Japanese and U.S. governments have signed revisions to the bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), under which the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will expand logistical support to U.S. forces. The Japanese government is set to ask the Diet to approve the accord during the ongoing extraordinary session. Both ruling and opposition parties should discuss specific problems involving the planned expansion of the logistical support the SDF will extend to U.S. forces during deliberations on the revised ACSA.

The Japan-U.S. ACSA establishes a framework for the SDF and U.S. forces to supply fuel, foodstuffs and other materials as well as services such as transportation and lodging to each other.

The two countries initially extended logistical support to each other in joint drills and U.N. peacekeeping operations, and subsequently expanded the scope of such assistance to cover operations to respond to so-called "emergency at periphery" situations, such as an armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, and a direct armed attack on Japan.

Under the latest revisions, the scope of operations under the ACSA will be further expanded to reflect the security laws. Specifically, the SDF will be allowed to extend logistical support to U.S. forces in situations threatening Japan's survival -- in which case Japan can exercise the right to collective self-defense -- as well as situations that could have a serious impact on Japan's peace and security.

The scope of goods and services the SDF can provide to U.S. forces will also be broadened. Japan had previously been allowed to supply ammunition to U.S. forces only in cases where Japan comes under armed attack. Under the security legislation and revised ACSA, however, Japan will be able to do so in situations threatening Japan's survival and those that could have a serious impact on Japan's peace and security. Moreover, Japan will be allowed to supply ammunition to the U.S. military during operations to rescue Japanese nationals overseas and be on alert against possible launches of ballistic missiles.

In last year's regular Diet session in which security bills were deliberated, the legislature failed to hold sufficient debate on not only the right to collective self-defense but also logistical support.

In particular, the law on situations that could have a serious impact on Japan's peace and security has many problems. Under the law, the SDF can extend logistical support anywhere in the world without geographical restrictions if the government deems that there is a situation that seriously affects Japan's peace and security.

The scope of areas where the SDF can extend logistical support will be broadened from non-combat zones to zones other than those where a battle is going on. If SDF troops were to extend logistical support such as refueling near the frontline, the personnel could be involved in use of force and the risk of SDF troops being attacked by foreign military forces would increase.

It is necessary to consider specific risks involving these operations and how to respond to such risks.

There are problems involving the way the government will seek Diet approval of such operations. The law concerning situations that seriously affect Japan's peace and security requires the government to seek Diet approval in principle before launching relevant operations, but leaves room for asking for retroactive Diet approval in case of emergency.

In September 2015, the government complied with three opposition parties' requests for the Diet's deeper involvement in decisions on dispatching SDF personnel overseas and won support from these parties for the security legislation.

At the time, the ruling coalition and these three opposition parties agreed that they would hold intraparty discussions on how to strengthen the Diet's involvement in the dispatch of SDF troops overseas in situations that could have a serious impact on Japan's peace and security and draw a conclusion after the security laws were enacted. Both the ruling and opposition parties should fulfill their responsibility over the matter.

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