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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 January 18 - 24  > War laws will require commercial transport companies and engineers to go to battlefields
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2017 January 18 - 24 [POLITICS]

War laws will require commercial transport companies and engineers to go to battlefields

January 18, 2017
The government is thinking of making a “request” to civilian transporters and engineers for cooperation in the Self-Defense Forces provision of logistical support in overseas combat zones.

Akahata discovered this in National Security Agency materials it obtained through access to official files.

However, the government in past Diet discussions has never given a clear answer as to whether it has in mind the use of civilian cooperation in other countries.

On the other hand, the agency’s document suggests the possibility of using civilians to assist in the dispatch of SDF personnel and materials to conflict-torn areas abroad as described, “It may be required to ask for cooperation (of civilians) outside Japan”.

Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors Tatsumi Kotaro on August 26 in 2015 at a meeting of the House Security Committee exposed the existence of a Ground SDF internal document concerning GSDF activities during its deployment to Iraq between 2004 and 2006. According to this document, the troops depended on commercial transportation companies for 99% of GSDF transport at that time.

Regarding this point, Nakatani Gen, the Defense Minister at that time, responded as follows: The GSDF used commercial airplanes, including Japan Airlines, at least 100 times; Nippon Express Co. by contract transported weapons and ammunition; and a total of 39 civilian engineers carried out maintenance or repairs of military components in the field.

* * *

Use of civilian airlines for military support will threaten passenger safety

Tsue Shozo, Secretary General of the Japan Federation of Aviation Worker’s Unions (JFAU), said that if Japanese airline companies provide support for the SDF’s use of force abroad based on the war laws, they could become a target of terrorist or retaliatory attacks. The secretary general of the JFAU, which organizes pilots, cabin crew, ground staff, and other aviation industry workers, expressed his concern that the safety of passengers would be also endangered.

Tsue said that Japanese commercial carriers have engaged in the transport of SDF personnel and supplies outside Japan, but they provided those transportation services on a commercial basis, not through legal requests from the national government.

In order to explain the risks pertaining to providing services for the military by civilian airlines, Tsue cited the case of Pan American Airways. The U.S. carrier transported U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War and conducted the delivery of military supplies even in times of peace. He noted that the company subsequently experienced hijacking, terrorism, and retaliation because it was regarded as a symbol of the U.S. by enemy countries and anti-U.S. groups.

In December 1988, a bomb explosion occurred on a Pan American passenger airplane flying above Scotland. This was a terrorist attack in response to U.S. air strikes against Libya. After the incident, the company lost customers and eventually went bankrupt. Tsue said, “Pan American’s case is a stark example of how dangerous it is for commercial companies to provide their services to the military.”

Civilian transport workers working near conflict areas face a high risk of being attacked. Japanese Communist Party lawmaker Nihi Sohei on March 25, 2016 in a House of Councilors Budget Committee meeting pointed to the fact that during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), 19 civilian ships were shot at in the Persian Gulf and four persons, including two Japanese nationals, were killed and 19 others were injured and that seven ships were confined in Iraqi territory.

Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions (Iroren) Secretary General Miura Yoshiko said that under the war laws, civilian workers could be required to cooperate in Japan’s military operations abroad even when Japan is not under attack.

She said that in the past, the Imperial Japanese government mobilized medical workers to assist in its war of aggression. Learning a lesson from this history, Iroren member unions have been working to conclude a labor-management agreement and a labor-management joint statement proclaiming refusal to provide wartime cooperation. These efforts will help protect medical workers and medical institutions from unjust government requests to support the SDF’s use of military force and will block the Abe government’s move to create a war fighting nation.

Past related article:
> War legislation aims to mobilize civilian workers [July 4, 2015]
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