A bigger role for Japanese Navy needed in PSI
Yomiuri shimbun writes.
The Japan-hosted multilateral maritime exercises
conducted Tuesday off Sagami Bay, Kanagawa Prefecture,
to interdict weapons of mass destruction have
highlighted a major legal problem the country has in
promoting the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).
The drill was the first held in East Asia under the PSI
launched by U.S. President George W. Bush in May last
year to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. In addition to the Japan Coast Guard, the
Maritime Self-Defense Force participated in the exercise
for the first time.
But the MSDF could not play a central role in the
exercise because it is not authorized to stop and
inspect ships in peacetime. This meant that the drill
had to take a very unusual form.
The drill was conducted based on the scenario that a
Japanese-registered ship had received from a
U.S.-registered vessel on the high seas near Japan
materials that could be used to manufacture sarin nerve
The JCG played a major role in the drill, interdicting
and inspecting the suspect ship as well as searching and
confiscating the suspicious materials. Meanwhile, MSDF
destroyers and patrol planes merely patrolled the
exercise area and provided information to the navies of
other participating countries.
The MSDF joined the exercise based on a "research"
provision in the Defense Agency Law because it could not
find any other legal ground.
Held separately from the main interdiction operation,
the activities of the MSDF and three other navies were
limited to stopping and inspecting a suspect ship in
waters off Yokosuka Port, Kanagawa Prefecture, on
Wednesday. The MSDF exercise was held based on the
scenario that the government had ordered the MSDF to
conduct policing actions.
Laws tie MSDF's hands
Based on this lame excuse, the government conducted the
PSI maritime interdiction exercise for the JCG and a
separate, limited inspection exercise for the MSDF.
Though the MSDF conducted the inspection exercise, it
actually may not stop ships for inspection in peacetime.
Under current laws, the MSDF may inspect ships on the
high seas only when Japan is attacked by an enemy,
emergency situations take place in regions around Japan,
or the government orders it to take defensive or
But with such legal limitations, the MSDF will not be
able to make a proper contribution to preventing the
proliferation of WMD. At the third PSI meeting held last
autumn in Paris, member nations agreed to revise and
enhance related domestic laws.
Japan should review relevant laws to enable the
Self-Defense Forces to participate in ship inspections
and other interdiction activities in peacetime.
Pussyfooting over Pyongyang
The MSDF could not play a central role at the latest
drill not only because of legal problems, but also
because the Foreign Ministry was afraid that the MSDF's
participation in the PSI drill might offend neighboring
But this is a matter closely related to the security of
Japan. The ministry's fears were beside the point.
North Korea exported missiles and related parts to
Pakistan and Iran, and obtained nuclear-related
materials and technology from those countries in return.
China and South Korea decided not to send observers to
the latest PSI drill, apparently because they did not
want to do anything that might anger North Korea.
But both China and South Korea should beef up their
monitoring of North Korea if they are serious about
realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Japan and Singapore are the only two Asian countries
among the 15 nations that have signed up to the PSI.
Japan should play a leading role in increasing the
number of PSI member nations.
Ship inspections are only one brick in the wall built to
prevent WMD proliferation, but it is still important to