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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 December 22 - 2022 January 4  > PM Kaifu was cautious about sending Japanese forces to Gulf region in 1990s for constitutional reasons
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2021 December 22 - 2022 January 4 [POLITICS]

PM Kaifu was cautious about sending Japanese forces to Gulf region in 1990s for constitutional reasons

December 23, 2021

During the Gulf crisis in the 1990s, when demanded by U.S. President George H. Bush that Japan send its Self-Defense Forces to the Gulf region, then Japanese Prime Minister Kaifu Toshiki was cautious about dispatching an SDF unit to the Middle East due to "constitutional restrictions" and Japan's responsibility for the past war of aggression in Asia. This came to light in diplomatic documents the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declassified on December 22.

The documents show that because of "constitutional restrictions", the Japanese government at that time was struggling to explore ways to somehow make SDF overseas dispatch possible. The present government, however, openly calls for a revision of the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution in order to lift the conventional restrictions and open the door to overseas deployment of Japanese troops without restrictions.

According to a declassified telegraph dated September 30, 1990, President Bush, during a summit in New York on September 29 in response to the Gulf crisis triggered by Iraqi's invasion of Kuwait, demanded that the SDF participate in the multinational forces although showing his understanding of Japan's constitutional restrictions.

PM Kaifu in reply said that the Japanese people are determined to never engage in the use of force or participate in armed conflicts abroad out of remorse for the fact that Japan during WWII caused other countries so much death and destruction. He explained to President Bush that this determination helped to establish the framework of the Japanese Constitution.

On the other hand, Kaifu said that instead, his government is endeavoring to enact a law to create a nonmilitary peacekeeping unit so that SDF personnel can join with UN peacekeepers. This attempt failed in November 1990 to gain approval in the Diet. However, Japan dispatched minesweepers to the Persian Gulf after the Gulf war ended, serving as a stepping stone to subsequent overseas deployment of the SDF.

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