This article speculates on the current government
discussions trends regarding the chain of command and
the political control of the SDF in case of an attack on
"The government plans to diminish the roles of
lawmakers-including the prime minister-in decisions to
counter surprise missile attacks from foreign nations.
A draft bill on amending the Self-Defense Forces Law
includes a plan that does not require the prime
minister's prior approval for the SDF to intercept an
incoming missile in a surprise attack. In addition, the
government would not be obliged to report to the Diet
any countermeasures taken in such emergencies.
Instead, the counterattack would follow procedures
established in advance by the director-general of the
Defense Agency. The final decision to launch interceptor
missiles would be left to the SDF commander-even without
an order from the defense chief.
The plan is intended to accelerate the process in the
limited time available to protect the populace from a
missile attack. A North Korean Nodong missile, for
example, could reach Japan within 10 minutes after its
But the proposed revisions will likely raise serious
concerns about the loss of civilian control over the
The government plans to gain Cabinet approval of the
revision bill on Feb. 10 and submit it to the current
Diet session. Pacifist lawmakers are certain to oppose
The plan in countering a ballistic missile attack has
two sets of procedures.
One is for cases when there are ``risks of a missile
directed toward Japan.'' The other concerns a missile
attack without any warning sign.
If there are prior signs, the defense chief is to report
the threat to the prime minister. The prime minister
would then approve the carrying out of countermeasures
and give the defense chief the authority to give the
If an attack occurs, the SDF commander would act
according to rules of engagement compiled beforehand.
If an attack comes without any warning sign, the SDF
commander would decide whether to take countermeasures
based on an emergency manual, which will be compiled by
the defense chief.
The contents of the manual, which must be approved by
the prime minister, will fall under a government
ordinance and not be included in the main part of the
amended law, according to the government plan.
Under the current SDF law, approval from Japan's
Security Council, the Cabinet and the Diet must be
obtained before the prime minister can order the SDF to
engage in activities involving the use of force. Diet
approval is required after the fact, even for