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    Debate over SDF role continues

    A Diet panel (lower house) on the constitution has recommended that the SDF be permitted to participate in collective self-defense (with Japan’s allies). How that can be permitted given the constitution remains the subject of debate:

    With regard to the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, however, the panel’s opinions were mixed, with some saying the legal basis for such use should be provided in the Constitution, while others argued such use could be permitted by changing the interpretation of the current Constitution.

    In any case, the LDP’s coalition partner, the Shin-Komeito, is blocking the introduction of a bill that would change legislation governing the SDF. The bill, if passed, would have made deployments abroad regular duties (as opposed to just extraordinary measures in exigencies) for the SDF.

    What is going ahead is the plan to make SDF equipment production and management better:

    The Defense Agency has decided to establish multifunctional teams to ensure uniform control of some Self-Defense Forces equipment, such as next-generation, short-range surface-to-air missiles, from the research and development stage right through to disposal, agency officials said.

    Following private sector examples, the agency aims to streamline operations by organizing multifunctional teams for each type of equipment, bringing together needed personnel for each team from different divisions in the agency and the SDF as well as from the private sector.

    That part about lack of horizontal communication is typical of Japanese organizations. People often forget that the inefficient 70% of the economy that serves the domestic market is carried by the 30% that has to compete on international terms. If the SDF actually succeeds in restructuring to put the highest priority on getting results (which is not a given), it can only be a good thing.

    What the SDF is and is not allowed to do is of increasing importance not just because of the WOT but also because of Japan’s petition to become a permanent member of the UNSC. Kofi Annan has said that if the reforms that are put through involve expanding the number of permanent seats, two of the six new memberships will be reserved for Asia, of which “one would naturally go to Japan.” How natural it would be to have a permanent UNSC member that may not be permitted, under normal circumstances, to participate in collective defense is still a matter for discussion.





    Added on 25 March: The Yomiuri has a story this morning that itemizes the limitations on the SDF better than it did yesterday, for those who haven’t read them. When it calls these the recommendations of “the government,” though, I don’t know that that conveys what’s actually going on. This is an internal panel of LDP lower house Diet members. As the Asahi reported yesterday, the Shin-Komeito doesn’t seem to want to go quite this far right now, and that means that these recommendations may be held in abeyance for some time.

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