Contingency legislation will remove restrictions on SDF use of force abroad

The Japanese parliament has begun deliberations on three bills on contingency legislation in the House of Representatives on May 7.

At the Lower House Special Committee meeting on May 7, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo stated that the "Bill to Respond to Armed Attacks," one of the three bills, will allow the Self-Defense Forces to use force not only in the event of an armed attack against Japan but also when "threats" of such attacks are perceived or predicted.

Shii showed how dangerous the bill is from three perspectives.

Bill lacks ban on use of force in response to 'threat' or 'prediction'

The bill to respond to armed attacks states that the law can be invoked in any of the following three cases: when Japan comes under armed attacks, when such threats is perceived, or when such an attack is predicted.

The bill also provides that the SDF can use force as a means of helping to end an armed attack situation as part of Japan's response to armed attacks.

Concerning this provision, Shii stated, "If that is the case, the SDF will be allowed to use force in any of the three cases."

Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro stated that it would be unnecessary to use force at the stages where threats are perceived or an armed attack is predicted.

Shii then asked, "What is the provision restricting the use of force only in response to an actual armed attack?"

Defense Agency Director General Nakatani Gen stated that the Self-Defense Forces Law and particularly its Article 88 is the provision that regulates SDF activity. He repeated that in this context, use of force will not be permitted in case of a predicted attack.

But by admitting that the armed attack situation bill does not include any such provisions, he virtually acknowledged that the bill does not ban the SDF from using force in response to "threats" or "predictions" of armed attacks.

SDF Law stipulates 'observance of international law and conventions' but the bill doesn't

The Defense Agency director-general repeated that "SDF actions under the new contingency legislation will be regulated by the SDF Law."

Shii raised doubts about it, pointing out that the "bill to respond to armed attacks" is defined as "programmatic legislation" and that related laws will be enacted based on this bill over the next two years. The danger is that the SDF Law will be changed in accordance with the provisions of the bill, he said.

He then showed that what is stated in Article 88 of the SDF Law is apparently omitted from the "bill to respond to armed attacks."

Clause 2 of Article 88 of the SDF Law states that use of force must be in compliance with international law and conventions."

Contradicting this stipulation, in the "bill to respond to armed attacks," the only reference to "use of force" is Article 3 stating that "use of force must be confined to what is judged as reasonably needed to respond to an armed attack."

Shii asked the Defense Agency director general, "Why does the bill entirely omit the clause providing that use of force must comply with international law and conventions?"

Nakatani avoided giving a clear answer and kept saying, "The SDF will act in conformity with the SDF Law."

Shii pointed out that the government used to explain that the SDF Law provides that the use of force must comply with international law and conventions, and that it prohibits a preemptive "use of force" except in "self-defense against armed attacks" as stipulated in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. "Despite the explanation given by past governments, to deliberately omit the clause from the bill is to pave the way for the SDF to use force in coping with perceived threats of attacks or predicted attacks," Shii said.

Defense chief Nakatani, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda Yasuo, and Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau Tsuno Osamu could not give a reasonable explanation why the bill omits the clause. The Cabinet Legislation Bureau chief could only repeat that SDF activities are "premised by the constitutional provisions. So the bill is not admitting a preemptive strike."

"No one can give a clear explanation why the clause is left out from the bill. This is because the government doesn't intend to follow international law in the event of invoking the law," Shii charged.

What will happen if two laws are invoked together?

Shii asked what will happen if the Law to Respond to Armed Attacks operates in conjunction with the Law on Measures to Deal with Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan.

The government has often said that "situations in areas surrounding Japan" and a situation in which Japan is being attacked from outside overlap each other.

The Law on Measures to Deal with Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan allows the Self-Defense Forces to provide "rear-area support" (logistical support), including transportation and supply to U.S. forces when the latter launches interventionist war.

But the law doesn't allow the SDF to operate in a combat situation in which SDF units may have to face the danger of being attacked. In case of such a danger, SDF units will be ordered to stop operations and withdraw from the scene.

Shii asked, "When the law to deal with an armed attack is invoked, SDF units operating under the Law to Deal with Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan will have to continue logistic activities for U.S. forces because the new law to deal with an armed attack stipulates that the SDF should take all possible measures in order to end the armed attack. Is that correct?"

Defense Agency Director General Nakatani Gen answered that the SDF will leave the combat zone as it is not allowed to take any action as part of U.S. military action.

Shii then asked what Prime Minister Koizumi thinks about possible U.S. preemptive attacks, citing past examples, such as the U.S. aggression against Grenada and Panama and air strikes against Libya -- all of which were condemned by U.N. General Assembly resolutions for violation of international law.

Referring to the U.S. Bush administration's definition of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an "axis of evil" and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's statement affirming the need for a preemptive attack, Shii urged Prime Minister Koizumi to state that a preemptive attack must not be tolerated.

In reply, Prime Minister Koizumi revealed his understanding that Rumsfeld meant that all options are available for the U.S. security strategy.

Shii said that Prime Minister Koizumi may be the only leader who shows an understanding of the U.S. preemptive strike strategy.

He stated that the bill to deal with armed attacks has nothing to do with the protection of Japanese people but will allow the SDF to use arms and take part in U.S. preemptive attacks and military interference against other nations. (end)