TOKYO -- Japan is considering allowing the Self-Defense Forces to come to the defense of the Australian military in the event it comes under attack during joint exercises, part of a broader effort to enhance the nation's defense powers.
Last July, the cabinet changed the government's interpretation of the constitution to allow Japan to defend friendly nations. The plan at that time was to seek legislation that would authorize the SDF to protect American military ships and aircraft if they come under attack during joint exercises or surveillance, in situations that fall short of emergencies involving Japan.
The government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party will now discuss adding Australian forces to this arrangement given that Tokyo is deepening its security ties with Canberra. Japan and Australia have a framework for sharing defense intelligence and are conducting joint in-flight refueling and other exercises in Guam, along with U.S. forces, this month.
If the SDF is authorized to protect only American forces, they would not be able to come to the aid of Australian forces even if they are attacked during joint exercises, says a senior Defense Ministry official.
However, many members of Komeito, the LDP's junior partner in the ruling coalition, are opposed to creating legislation that goes beyond what was decided earlier by the cabinet.
The LDP and Komeito will begin on Friday discussions on legislation that would expand the SDF's roles overseas to reflect the cabinet decision. The government and LDP hope to finalize the basic framework and begin drawing up bills by the end of March, aiming to submit the bills to the Diet in May. One of the focal points will be creating a law that would enable SDF dispatches overseas without Diet approval.