A government panel studying the role of the SDF in peacekeeping has recommended it increase participation in U.N. missions worldwide.

The nation should re-examine its principles and capacities to broaden Self-Defense Forces participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations to include core activities, such as truce monitoring, a government panel said in an interim report Monday.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Shozo Azuma, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office and head of the panel, called for “political leadership” in reviewing such issues as Japan’s strict principles for engagement in U.N. peacekeeping operations.

The Constitution stipulates five principles for SDF participation, including the existence of a ceasefire, the consent of the warring parties, the impartiality of the mission, an immediate withdrawal if any of the conditions are not met, and the use of weapons only for self-defense. (Link)

An good (and overdue) idea, but two issues arise:

1. The panel called for “political leadership” to affect the change in policy. Unfortunately, Japan is cursed at this point with a series of politically weak leaders, unpopular prime ministers who serve out a year — or less — and lack the political capital to push this through. Internal issues, such as the large public debt and post-earthquake reconstruction, take precedent.

2. The social contract between the government and the Japanese people on the role of the SDF has to be redefined. The SDF is, traditionally, a defensive organization, a disaster relief organization, and a jobs creation / training organization. It is not a peacekeeping organization, and the Japanese people have yet to be sold on the idea.

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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch