The leaders of Japan’s ruling coalition are locked in debate over a proposed revision of the strict rules governing when Japanese troops can fire their guns. Stars and Stripes reports
While the ruling Liberal Democratic Party wants to relax restrictions for SDF troops on the use of weapons to expand their activities overseas, its junior coalition partner Komeito remains cautious, wondering if the change complies with the Constitution and if it will bring more danger to SDF members.According to experts, the use of weapons could be put into two categories: “self-preservation,” namely, minimal use of weapons by SDF members to protect their lives and people under their control; and “mission execution,” or using weapons by SDF members to eliminate resistance in carrying out their mission with warning shots and other actions.So far, only use of weapons under the self-preservation category has been allowed in principle for SDF members. However, since the Cabinet decided last year to expand SDF activities abroad, expansion of the self-preservation category and creation of the mission execution category are being discussed in the talks between the ruling parties.At their meeting on Friday, an LDP member insisted that the mission execution category of weapons use should be allowed for SDF units, but a Komeito member retorted that it is totally different from the self-preservation category that has been allowed so far.
For some time, PM Shinzo Abe and his allies have been working to erode the structures of Japan’s pacifist post-war foreign policy. They are having some tentative success. Last year, Abe’s cabinet voted to reinterpret Japan’s constitution to allow for “collective self-defense,” though a parliamentary vote on the matter still looms.In the meantime, Abe government is pushing through smaller measures to nudge the country off its pacifist course. Japan has recently started to market its military products, especially submarines. In the wake of ISIS’s horrific killings of two Japanese hostages, Tokyo also decided to permit development aid to be provided to foreign militaries for certain non-combat uses. If the rules for discharging weapons change, it will be only the latest sign that Abe is intent on restoring Japanese militarism bit by bit.