WASHINGTON -- Ruling party policy chief Seiji Maehara called for Self-Defense Forces personnel taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations abroad to be allowed to fire their weapons to defend the forces of other nations.
Maehara, a former foreign minister and advocate of a close Japan-U.S. alliance, told a symposium in Washington on Sept. 7 that the SDF's contribution to peacekeeping operations was "still not enough compared to that of other major states."
He called for a review of the five principles that currently govern Japan's peacekeeping deployments, arguing that changes would not necessarily violate Japan's Constitution.
"It is necessary to enable the SDF to defend other countries' military units operating with (the SDF) from imminent and unlawful infringement," he said.
He also called for a review of Japan's ban on exporting weapons and weapons technologies.
"We can deepen Japan-U.S. alliance, as well as security cooperation with other countries, through joint (weapons) development and production," he said.
Maehara, as head of the Democratic Party of Japan's Policy Research Committee, is expected to exert strong influence on the policy effort of Japan's new government, with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda committed to giving his committee greater authority.
In a wide-ranging keynote speech at the symposium titled "The U.S.-Japan Alliance after 3.11," he stressed the importance of Japan's alliance with the United States and described China's rise as a "game changer" in international diplomacy.
"The rules (China) insists (on) are peculiar," he said. "When dealing with China, difference in values is a huge problem."
He said the participation of Japan and other friendly states in international peacekeeping operations would "fill in the pieces of the puzzle," doing work that the United States could not accomplish alone.
Reviewing the five principles governing Japan's participation in peacekeeping operations, which restrict use of weapons, and the three principles on weapons exports would be controversial in Japan.
Referring specifically to the five principles, he said: "This issue easily becomes off the point in Japan, since it is regarded as the matter of the right of self-defense and activities involving the use of force."
Article 9 of Japan's Constitution bans the use of force outside Japan or activities that are indistinguishable from the use of force by other countries.
But the use of weapons by the SDF to defend troops from other countries could lead to such a situation.
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