Yuko Mukai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
WASHINGTON--Seiji Maehara, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's policy chief, on Wednesday said Japan needs to review its three principles on arms exports and ease restrictions on the Self-Defense Forces' use of weapons during overseas operations.
In a speech at a symposium in Washington, Maehara said doing so could deepen the Japan-U.S. alliance and increase Japan's contributions to international peacekeeping operations.
In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at a press conference Thursday that the government "will consider" conducting a review of the principles.
Observers said Maehara's speech was designed to show that the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda intends to center its foreign policy on the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Maehara's visit to the United States is apparently intended to smooth the way for Noda, who is scheduled to make a speech at a U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York beginning Sept. 21.
Maehara, chairman of the DPJ's Policy Research Committee and a former foreign minister, said in the speech that the extent of SDF participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations is "still not enough."
"We need to solve legal issues," he said in English.
In particular, Maehara called for easing regulations on the use of arms by the SDF, "to enable the SDF to defend other countries' military units operating with the SDF from imminent and unlawful infringement."
He also indicated the government and the DPJ will look into the matter.
Currently, SDF personnel involved in overseas operations, such as U.N. peacekeeping efforts, are allowed to use arms only to defend themselves or other SDF troops.
Reviewing the three principles on arms exports would address the risk of Japan's defense industry being left behind in the international race to develop innovative technology, including weapons technology, Maehara said.
Conducting a review of the principles was raised under the administration of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, which considered making it a stipulation in the basic national defense policy that was approved last December. But out of consideration for the Social Democratic Party, with which the DPJ was trying to form a coalition, Kan's Cabinet dropped the idea.
Maehara's remarks appear to be aimed at rekindling discussions on the issue within the government and the ruling party.
At a press conference Monday, new Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said, "It would be possible to consider [carrying out a review]."
TPP decision coming 'ASAP'
Also on Wednesday, Maehara held talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at the U.S. State Department.
Maehara told Burns the Noda administration will make a final decision as soon as possible regarding whether Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional trade agreement, according to sources.
However, Maehara stopped short of specifying a time by which Tokyo will make the decision, the sources said.
(Sep. 9, 2011)