What Japanese defense forces can do under new legislation

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 Soldiers from 6th Division of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force fire artillery from a 155 mm howitzer Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, during Orient Shield at Ojojihara Maneuver Area in northeast Japan.    James Kimber/Stars and Stripes
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Soldiers from 6th Division of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force fire artillery from a 155 mm howitzer Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, during Orient Shield at Ojojihara Maneuver Area in northeast Japan. James Kimber/Stars and Stripes

What Japanese defense forces can do under new legislation

by: Erik Slavin | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 21, 2015

TOKYO — The security legislation enacted by the Japanese government Saturday will enable the Japan Self-Defense Forces to do the following:

Defend allies in combat

Japan Self-Defense Forces would be able to defend a “close ally” under attack, even if its forces or territory were not directly attacked. For example, a Japanese ship could fire on an enemy attacking a U.S. vessel. Japan’s forces might also shoot down a North Korean missile headed toward the United States.

Opponents have heavily criticized this “collective self-defense” measure because of its potential to entangle Japan in foreign wars alongside unnamed allies. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has countered that not defending a close ally — using the U.S. as an example — could endanger its alliance, and, by doing so, Japan’s very existence.

Engage in a broader range of operations

The prior restrictions on Japanese troops abroad meant they were essentially guarded by defense contractors during their 2004 Iraq deployment. The new rules allow Japan to engage in sea, air and ground operations alongside allies that will have fewer concerns about Japan actively engaging during an attack.

Deploy without special approval

The legal changes give the government broader authority to deploy Japanese forces globally to provide support to multinational peacekeeping efforts. Japan has deployed forces overseas before — notably, for Iraq and Afghanistan operations — but the Diet had to pass a temporary law each time. The new law makes it easier to deploy, but with a more cumbersome process than the government had wanted. On Wednesday, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed to stricter procedures on this point in exchange for support from three opposition parties.

Provide more supplies

Self-Defense Forces previously fueled U.S. ships headed for combat operations in Afghanistan under a temporary law. The new law allows Japan to provide a wider range of supplies, including ammunition, without any global constraints.

Use force under restricted circumstances

Japan’s SDF will only be allowed to employ the minimum necessary force, and only when no options other than force exist. Opponents have decried the lack of detailed scenarios for when such force would be employed, as well as the leeway that could be used to interpret what, and when, force might be necessary.

slavin.erik@stripes.com

Twitter:@eslavin_stripes