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Plan proceeds to deploy MSDF troops to Middle East to protect Japanese vessels

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, right, delivers a speech at a liaison meeting between the governing bloc and the executive branch of the government held at the prime minister's office in this file photo taken on Dec. 3, 2019. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- The executive branch of the Japanese government notified the ruling coalition on Dec. 9 of its plan to deploy Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) troops to the Middle East on a mission to ensure the safety of Japan-related vessels in the region.

The government can dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) members overseas simply with an order from the defense minister if the deployment is aimed at gathering information based on a provision on survey and research missions in the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Defense, just as is the case with the upcoming deployment.

However, the executive branch has clarified its policy of gaining consent from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito before approving the dispatch plan at a Cabinet meeting in order to restrain the SDF's overseas activities. The move is in response to Komeito's demand that transparency be ensured with the process of deciding to deploy SDF troops overseas and that the brakes be put on the SDF's missions abroad.

At a Komeito meeting, some demanded that the purposes of and reasons for deploying MSDF personnel, as well as the need to report the troop dispatch to the Diet, be written into documents for upcoming Cabinet approval.

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi told reporters at the Diet on Dec. 9 that he would like the executive branch to "consider drawing up rules while taking into account the fact that the government has responded to overseas deployments by enacting special measures legislation, instead of easily applying the relevant clause in the Act for Establishment of the Ministry of Defense."

At separate meetings of the LDP and Komeito, government officials explained a plan to deploy a vessel from Japan, as well as a P-3C1 patrol aircraft currently on an anti-piracy mission in eastern Africa.

(Japanese original by Yusuke Tanabe, Political News Department, and Issei Suzuki, Foreign News Department)

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