TOKYO -- Japan is considering legal revisions that would let the Self-Defense Forces use weapons to rescue its citizens under attack by armed forces abroad.
A government advisory committee on defense-related legal reforms will make recommendations toward this end in a report Tuesday. The country where the incident takes place would have to grant permission for weapons use, and Japanese lives would need to be in danger.
Current law allows the SDF to mobilize aircraft and land vehicles, for example, to protect Japanese in a transport capacity. But weapons use is limited to specific circumstances, such as self-defense. This prohibits using weapons to rescue hostages held by an armed group, for example.
The government's interpretation sees the use of weapons to rescue Japanese as substituting the SDF for local police authority, rather than as exercising the right to self-defense. Weapons use thus can be allowed through legal revisions as a separate matter from constitutional interpretations on collective self-defense, the thinking goes.
The government seeks to have the proposal discussed in meetings related to collective self-defense between the Liberal Democratic Party and its ruling coalition partner, New Komeito, starting May 16. The legislature is slated to consider reforms to defense-related laws during an extraordinary session in autumn.
After a 2013 hostage crisis in Algeria involving Japanese citizens, the law governing the SDF was revised to authorize transport by land in addition to the previously allowed air and sea transport. But amid concerns from New Komeito, restrictions on weapons use were not relaxed. Resistance from the party could also make changes difficult this time around.