On March 14, two Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers, the Sazanami and the Samidare, left the MSDF Kure Base in Hiroshima Prefecture carrying about 400 personnel to take part in "anti-piracy" activities in waters off Somalia.
The MSDF currently deploys about 340 sailors to the Indian Ocean under the extended Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law for refueling missions for U.S. and other foreign warships in the so-called "war on terrorism" in Afghanistan.
With this latest move, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will maintain four warships and 750 personnel in the Indian Ocean.
At a news conference in Sendai on the same day, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo lodged a protest against the departure of the two SDF ships and expressed determination to block any new legislation to expand the SDF's overseas missions.
Shii stated as follows:
Today, the Aso Cabinet dispatched Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers to waters off Somalia ostensibly as part of "maritime policing activities" based on the present SDF Law. However, the SDF law allows the SDF to carry out such policing activities only in waters off the coast of Japan and does not justify SDF dispatches throughout the world.
We strongly protest against the government for approving the dispatches, which may involve the danger of use of arms without undergoing due procedure.
The government is also attempting to enact a permanent law to allow the SDF to participate in "anti-piracy" operations. The new law, if enacted, will allow MSDF warships to provide security for ships of all countries by amending the present law that restricts them to protect only Japanese ships and will reword the present law that restricts the use of force exclusively to an emergency situation in order to protect themselves.
The government has so far stated that the possibility cannot be excluded that the use of force by the SDF to achieve its mission conflicts with Article 9 of the Constitution banning the "use of force as means of settling international disputes".
Both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party are calling for legislation to enable the SDF to be dispatched to any place at any time. The 'anti-piracy' law, if enacted, will lead to an enactment of a permanent law. The JCP opposes these dangerous moves and will make every effort to block the new law.
The regulation of pirates' criminal activities should be a police responsibility. Japan should not dispatch its military units overseas, but provide financial and technical assistance to Somalia and its neighboring countries to help them tighten patrol activities in nearby areas. This is what the nations concerned want from Japan.
The international community is called upon to increase cooperation for an immediate end to Somalia's civil war, and political and economic stability to be established. The best path for Japan to take is to increase these efforts through diplomatic means.
- Akahata, March 15, 2009