TOKYO – Japan plans to draw up a law to speed the deployment of troops overseas for peacekeeping operations and to support allies, reports said Sunday, in a move that could strain relations with neighbors wary about Japan's wartime history.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) plan to draw bills early next year aimed at facilitating administrative processes to deploy Japanese troops abroad, the leading business daily Nikkei and other media reported.
The move would overwrite the past practice of ad-hoc legislation each time Japanese Self-Defense Forces were deployed abroad, except in UN peacekeeping operations and in emergencies in Japan's neighborhood — cases for which Japan already has permanent laws.
The bills would govern the dispatch of Japanese troops overseas in logistical support of multinational forces or key ally the United States.
But the LDP still needs to convince its junior coalition partner Komeito party to support the plan as Komeito remains reluctant to enact such a law, the Nikkei and Kyodo News said.
Abe, fresh from a parliamentary re-election this month, is seeking to expand the role of Japan's powerful military under the country's post-war US-imposed pacifist constitution.
He wants the military to have the power to come to the aid of allies such as the United States if US forces are attacked.
Abe and the LDP even want to amend the constitution, but their efforts have proved divisive at home and strained already tense relations with China, which regularly accuses Japan of failing to face up to its history of aggression in Asia.
Tokyo enacted temporary bills in the early 2000s which enabled its navy to refuel multinational forces engaged in the war in Afghanistan and that deployed its troops in relatively safe southern Iraq on a non-combat reconstruction mission.
The gradual expansion of the role of Japanese forces in global affairs came partly from US pressure. Japan has made limited military contributions in war-zones, citing constraints under its pacifist constitution.