Abe government mulls dispatching SDF troops on EU missions

The Abe administration is considering creating a framework through which Self-Defense Forces personnel would participate in international missions involving European Union troops, under an envisioned permanent law on overseas SDF dispatches, a government source said.

SDF troops would be sent on EU international peace and cooperation operations under a different framework than that for U.N. peacekeeping operations, the source said Tuesday.

The envisioned SDF dispatch is likely to be discussed in a meeting among senior officials of the Foreign and Defense ministries with EU representatives in Tokyo early next week, the source said.

Japanese and EU officials are expected during the talks to sort out legal issues on the scope of SDF operations, as the administration is working out security legislation following a Cabinet decision last July on reworking Japan’s security policy, according to the source.

The move reflects Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s stated desire for Japan to make “proactive contributions to peace” and raise its global profile.

In the absence of a permanent law, the government has enacted special laws to authorize the dispatch of SDF personnel for refueling missions to support U.S.-led anti-terrorism operations in and around Afghanistan, and for humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.

The permanent law would enable the dispatch of SDF personnel when necessary, a faster process than submitting time-limited, case-specific special legislation to the Diet for approval. Japan has a permanent law on U.N. peacekeeping operations that forms the legal basis for its dispatch of troops.

According to the source, the administration plans to dispatch SDF personnel to operations under the European Union’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) framework.

EU member countries have contributed troops and equipment as the need arises, and Japan was asked a few years ago to provide support.

While the EU troops have been involved in disarmament and conflict prevention, they have also taken part in nonmilitary activities such as helping Libya improve security on its borders in 2013.

Last May, Japan and the European Union agreed in a joint statement to “explore the scope for strengthened Japanese collaboration with the CSDP’s missions.”

SDF personnel have cooperated with and held joint exercises with troops of EU member nations, but they have never received direct orders from the EU’s command structure.

“With the ruling coalition parties’ talks on security moving forward, we will study how far (the SDF) can be involved in the EU troops’ missions,” the source said.

One of the issues that could be addressed in future discussions between Japanese and EU officials is an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement, or ACSA, which enables troops of different countries to share supplies and transportation services.

The Japan Times

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