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July 8th, 2008
Japan's About-Face
Map: Japan's Self-Defense Forces Deployments

INTRODUCTION
The Constitution of Japan, adopted on November 3, 1946, explicitly bans the creation of armed forces. However, over the past fifty years, Japan has built up land, air, and sea-based Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to protect the country in case of attack. In recent years, the Japanese Diet has passed laws to extend the SDF beyond Japan to other countries.

Please click on a point in the map below to see information about Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) deployment in that region.

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LEGEND
Peacekeeping operations under the International Peace Cooperation Law
International disaster relief operations under the International Peace Cooperation Law
SDF deployments under the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law
SDF deployments under the Law Concerning Special Measures for Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq

JAPANESE LAWS THAT JUSTIFY SDF DEPLOYMENT TO FOREIGN TERRITORIES
1992 – THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE COOPERATION LAW
Japan endured harsh criticism from the United States for its inability to send ground forces to the Persian Gulf after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. In response, the Japanese Diet enacted the Law Concerning Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (also known as the International Peace Cooperation Law or the PKO law). The law provided a legal framework for Japan to send Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel overseas to participate in international peacekeeping and relief operations. The PKO law laid out five conditions that must be satisfied before a Japanese SDF contingent may be dispatched.
(1) a cease-fire must be in place;
(2) the parties to the conflict must have given their consent to the operation;
(3) the activities must be conducted in a strictly impartial manner;
(4) participation may be suspended or terminated if any of the above conditions ceases to be satisfied; and
(5) use of weapons shall be limited to the minimum necessary to protect life or person of the personnel.
2001 – ANTI-TERRORISM SPECIAL MEASURES LAW
In response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the Japanese Diet passed the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law in October 2001. This law allows the SDF to engage in cooperation and support activities, such as fuel supply, transportation, and repair and maintenance; search and rescue operations; and assistance to affected people, which includes medical services. The law further stipulates that these operations can take place on the high seas and in foreign territories where combat is not taking place.
2003 – LAW CONCERNING SPECIAL MEASURES FOR HUMANITARIAN AND RECONSTRUCTION ASSISTANCE IN IRAQ
In 2003, the Japanese Diet passed the Law Concerning Special Measures for Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq. The law stipulated that the mission of the SDF is limited to humanitarian and reconstruction assistance and that it will not become involved in any combat action.

Sources:

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
  • Japan Ministry of Defense
  • Niksch, Larry A. and Sutter, Robert G. Japan’s Response to the Persian Gulf Crisis: Implications for U.S.-Japan Relations. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 1991.
  • Samuels, Richard J. Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2007.
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