EDITORIAL: ‘Unconstitutional’ security bills set no limit on military logistical support
Discussions on the content of military logistics (or “rear-echelon support” in the parlance of current politics) to be provided overseas by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have emerged as a focus of attention during deliberations in the Upper House over a controversial package of new security-related bills.
We simply cannot believe our ears at the sheer extent of the limitlessness and the breadth of discretion to be given to the government.
During the last several days of debate, the government has explained that it would be legally allowed to provide the following services to foreign troops:
[Transport of weaponry and ammunition] Missiles and tanks of the U.S. military forces, chemical weapons, toxic gas weapons and nuclear weapons
[Supply of ammunition] Grenades, rocket bombs, tank ammunition, nuclear weapons, depleted uranium munitions, cluster bombs
[Refueling] Airborne and seaborne refueling of U.S. fighter jets and combat helicopters that are embarking on bombing missions, and refueling of fighter jets and bombers that carry nuclear missiles or nuclear bombs
There is no doubt that the bills would significantly expand the leeway for discretion to be used by the administration of the time when compared with the existing legislation, which does not allow Japan to supply ammunition or provide other services to foreign troops. At the very least, virtually no restriction is expected to be set by the text of the legislation.
For example, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani made a nuanced remark in regard to the transport of cluster bombs, which scatter bomblets over broad areas and create serious threats from unexploded bomblets. He said the transport of cluster bombs “will not be ruled out legally, but decisions will be made carefully, because Japan is signatory to an international convention that totally bans their use and manufacture.”
Nakatani also remained noncommittal on the transport of depleted uranium munitions, which contain radioactive substances, when he said, “I cannot say definitively if it will be allowed to transport depleted uranium munitions of other countries.”
The government takes the stance that Japan will consider all factors at hand in making policy decisions on whether to actually put into practice something that is legally allowed. It is certainly true that Japan has no way to supply nuclear weapons, depleted uranium munitions or cluster bombs, none of which it possesses, to foreign troops.
But speaking in general terms, it appears unlikely for Tokyo to refuse Washington’s strong request for transport operations, except in extremely improbable cases, such as the transport of nuclear weapons.
It has so far been believed that unconstitutionality of operations that are construed as constituting “integrated use of force with foreign troops” would apply the brakes of sorts on similar operations. It has been learned, however, that Japan’s SDF transported armed U.S. soldiers during its airlift operations in Iraq. Given that, there could be a situation where anything goes if the security bills become law.
The bills do not limit the beneficiary of logistical support to U.S. troops. They would allow logistical support to be provided anywhere except in areas of “ongoing combat.” They would allow Japan to supply ammunition to foreign troops, transport weaponry and ammunition for foreign troops, and refuel aircraft of foreign troops being prepared for takeoff. They would allow Japan to do so anywhere in the world.
And they allow leeway for policy decisions to be made and discretion to be used by the administration of the time to provide this much military logistical support, which could constitute “integrated use of force with foreign troops.”
We are only led to suspect ever more strongly that the security bills are unconstitutional, not only because they are based on a controversial decision to lift the country’s self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense, but also because they are expected to allow logistical support to this extent to be provided.