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Outline allowing SDF to join U.N. operations drafted.

Members of a ruling coalition team discussing security issues drafted Wednesday an outline of legislation that would allow the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to participate in U.N. peacekeeping activities, political sources said.

The members, led by Nobuaki Futami of the Liberal Party (LP), will present the outline in a meeting Thursday of the security team, which is composed of politicians from the Liberal Democratic Party, the New Komeito party and the LP.

The draft, which aims to lift Japan's self-imposed freeze on SDF participation in peacekeeping forces approved by the United Nations, features a provision allowing the use of arms "only in response to situations in which it is rationally judged to be necessary."

Although Futami's group effectively approved the inclusion into the draft of peacekeeping duties involving the use of force, it also called on the government of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi to pass a cabinet decision to restrict SDF troops from taking on such duties. The contradictory positions reflect the conflict among the three parties, with LP chief Ichiro Ozawa linking his party's continued cooperation in the coalition on the early realization of the legislation and New Komeito strongly opposing it.

Working from the viewpoint that "new legislation allowing full and comprehensive participation in U.N. operations is necessary," the outline touches on all aspects of peacekeeping operations, including ship inspections, and calls for the repeal of a 1992 law on Japan's participation in U.N. peacekeeping forces.

While the three parties agree on the early lifting of the ban on SDF participation in U.N. forces and promoting the drafting of legislation toward participation in duties that do not involve the use of force, discussions on concrete policy have been stalled.

Japan's participation in U.N. peacekeeping forces is limited by a 1992 law that allows Japan to send SDF personnel overseas only to perform noncombat duties such as aiding refugees, building bridges and providing rear-area expertise.

More legislation is required to activate a portion of the law to allow the SDF to take part in tasks that could result in armed skirmishes, such as monitoring demilitarized zones and collecting and disposing of abandoned weapons.

Efforts to lift the freeze on Japan's participation in U.N. peacekeeping forces were part of the policy agreement reached by the three coalition partners Oct. 4.

However, the parties have yet to agree on whether to make any changes to the five principles under the 1992 law.

Under the five principles, the SDF can be deployed only if a cease-fire is already in place, if Japan is neutral in the conflict and if the host country consents to their dispatch.

If anyone of these conditions is not fulfilled, the SDF must withdraw. The fifth principle allows the Japanese military to use arms only for self-defense.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Dec 6, 1999
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