Japan Air Self-Defense Force participates in US military drill: Reinterpretation of the Constitution?

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     A formation of F-15 fighters of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) has participated in a military maneuver which the US Air Force has led. They had exercises jointly with a B-52 for covering the bomber. It is capable of meaning to depart from “the defense-only policy” that Japan has been acting up to since the end of the war. The Abe administration adopted a change the chief of Cabinet Legislation Bureau at a Cabinet meeting this month to let them accept the use of the right to collective self-defense by “reinterpretation of the Constitution”.

     This military exercise is called “Red Flag-Alaska (RFA)”. It was named that way in 2006 since then it has done in Alaska, and it started on August 9th this year too.

     “This happened during the OCA (offensive counter air operation) mission in RFA. A formation of F-15 of JASDF took the lead and kept covering B-52 bomber….But B-52 had run the mission and had gone back with the other formations before the Japan’s team knew. The formation of JASDF was left behind and got down without covering forces. This misstep was because all of the operation plans and the pre-flight briefing had been done in English and Japan’s pilots had not understood correctly that they had to go back when B-52 finished its bombing mission and because they could not catch the MC’s “Mission accomplished. Retreat” …

     That is a part of an article in the July issue last year of the monthly magazine of the Air Self-Defense Force. The writer is a captain in the 6th aircraft wing. He did not write when the drill was held. Actually Japan Air Staff Office has not affirmed the contents of the exercises. According to them, it was an “air defense drill”.

     The relations between Article 9 of the Constitution and activities of Japan’s Self-Defense Force have been stretched gradually. However, the exclusively defensive defense and the individual self-defense are the base, and the government has been conditional on these three points:
1) if Japan gets an imminent and unlawful incursion,
2) and there is no other appropriate methods to get rid of it,
3) resort to force to minimum necessary
And they have banned to exercise the right of collective defense because it departs from those three conditions. But they have used the ideas of “logistical support” or “non-combat areas” since 1990s and have delivered weapons and provided information to the US Armed Force because they interpret those actions are not using of force and do not regard them as the right of collective defense.

     What do experts think about the participation of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to RFA? :

Kyoji Yanagisawa (The chairman of International Geopolitics Institute Japan, a former aide to deputy chief cabinet secretary for security in the first Abe administration) : The government might reply that they assume the situation in which North Korea launches missiles to Japan. When Japan is in such an emergency situation, the activity is within the individual self-defense.

Akira Kato (A professor at Obirin University, a former research worker at the National Institute for Defense Studies): The Japan Air Self-Defense Force always keeps joint operations with the US Air Force in mind. That is why they practice many drills together to boost mutual understanding and communication. In actual condition, members of Self-Defense Force don’t think whether their action is collective or individual so much.

Tetsuo Maeda (A military commentator): B-52 is notorious for using napalm during the Vietnam War. The recent white paper on defense says, “There is no risk of getting a direct invasion to Japan”. So, it’s difficult to accept their activities as self-defense. It is rather a proof that they practice the use of the right to collective self-defense on a daily basis. It has no reality of using B-52 in the Korean Peninsula because the bomber is incapable of point attack to the deployment place of Taep’o dong or Nodong. It’s natural to think the practice is to join wars between the US and other countries like Iran.

Motofumi Asai (A political scholar): Strategic bombers are used for aggressive attack or invasion. So, covering B-52 departs from “minimum necessary” of self-defense. Politicians may be creating “faits accomplish” such as the drill.

     B-52 is capable of strategic nuclear strike. It seems to be difficult for US to handle attacks from North Korea with a ballistic missile defense system. They appear to have a nuclear retaliation plan. That exercise may be for sharing the project. It might be the aim for the use of the right to collective self-defense to support wars between US and other countries. The worst thing is that the government has neither opened the activities of the Japan Self-Defense Force nor assumed situations to the public. They have never even placed those things on the agenda. In the meantime, Prime Minister Abe is scrambling for acceptation of the use of the right to collective defense.

(From The Chunichi, August 13, 2013      translated by moshimoshimo)

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