Hajime Furukawa / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
Located in Djibouti, the Self-Defense Forces’ first full-fledged overseas base is expected to allow the SDF to contribute more to the international community through peacekeeping operations and humanitarian activities.
Nineteen years have passed since the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law was enacted in 1992 to dispatch SDF personnel to monitor a cease-fire in Cambodia and improve the nation’s infrastructure.
“Times have changed beyond recognition,” a senior official of the Defense Ministry said, recalling the time when sending SDF personnel overseas was widely opposed.
The SDF has participated in seven PKO missions, including the mission in Cambodia, which was its first. In February last year, SDF personnel were sent to Haiti shortly after a devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean country.
In early 2004, the Ground Self-Defense Force started dispatching troops to Iraq to help reconstruct the war-torn country.
Revisions of the Self-Defense Forces Law in 2006 enabled the SDF to perform PKO missions as one of its primary duties–a duty some say is as important as national defense.
The opening of the nation’s first long-term overseas SDF base reflects changes in the security environment surrounding the SDF.
Djibouti, located on the Horn of Africa, is on the front line of the global fight against terrorism.
A senior Foreign Ministry official emphasized the opening of the base will serve the best interests of the nation.
“[Setting up the base] will make it easier [for the SDF] to cooperate with the U.S. forces, which emphasize counterterrorism operations,” he said. “And there’s rising demand for PKO in Africa and the Middle East. Being able to swiftly deploy SDF forces to trouble spots can contribute to [the security of] neighboring nations.”
The Djibouti government also expects a great deal from the SDF.
When Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh visited Japan in December, he told Prime Minister Naoto Kan he would spare no effort in cooperating with SDF activities.
Another senior official of the Foreign Ministry said, “[Such an international contribution] will help win broad support for Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.” Japan needs the support of Africa’s 53 nations to realize reform of the council.
The government’s interpretation of the Constitution makes it impossible for the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense and restricts SDF activities overseas. However, Japan’s efforts to contribute to world peace should boost the SDF’s international reputation.