The Yomiuri Shimbun December 26, 2013
In intl crisis, govt must lay down new weapons-export principles
A country working to support nation-building efforts in Africa under rigorous conditions has every reason to help another country engaged in the same task, a duty that has been taken for granted internationally.
The Ground Self-Defense Force, now participating in a U.N. mission in South Sudan—officially called the U.N. Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)—has provided South Korean forces with 10,000 bullets for rifles without asking for payment in exchange. The bullets were given via the UNMISS authorities. The GSDF’s bullet offer was the first of its kind to occur overseas.
Amid a rapid decline in the African country’s security situation, South Korean forces were working to protect the safety of about 15,000 refugees in their assigned area, surrounded by armed rebel groups.
It is clear the Japanese government had no option but to supply bullets to the South Korean forces. The action was needed from the standpoint of humanity and urgency, given that the lives of South Korean soldiers and local refugees were at risk.
Supplying the bullets was essential for supporting the global significance of U.N. peacekeeping operations. No participants in the UNMISS mission except the GSDF were carrying bullets that could be used for rifles carried by South Korean soldiers.
South Korean forces telephoned the GSDF unit and expressed their gratitude for the bullets.
There may be cases in which the GSDF asks other nations to support its forces or come to its rescue. Making steady efforts to extend assistance comparable to the recent case of supplying bullets and increasing cooperation with foreign forces will ensure the security of GSDF personnel operating overseas.
Regarding the U.N. Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law, which was the subject of questions during Diet sessions, the government has long said it does not expect requests from other nations to provide weapons and ammunition, and that if such a request were to be filed, it would reject the request. This line of reasoning apparently reflects the fact that it is extremely unusual for Japan to be asked by any other country to supply weapons and ammunition, even if it is a request that could affect the survival of the requesting nation’s forces.
Civilian control effective
In deciding on the bullet offer, the government held a meeting of four relevant Cabinet members under the National Security Council and a Cabinet conference. In these meetings, the government concluded the bullet supply would be treated as an exception to its three rules on arms exports and its official interpretation of the peace cooperation law.
Given the lack of procedural defects in the latest decision, it is safe to say our nation’s principle of civilian control has fulfilled its purpose.
In 2011, the Cabinet of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda relaxed the principles regarding arms exports, thus making it possible to offer weapons for peace-building and international cooperation purposes. However, the offer of arms was limited to foreign governments, meaning such institutions as the UNMISS authorities were not included in the list of organs to which our country would supply arms.
The government is currently considering fundamentally reexamining the three principles. Taking the recent bullet supply into consideration, the government should lay down a new set of flexible and realistic principles as quickly as possible.
With the deterioration of the South Sudanese situation in mind, the U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution to shore up the UNMISS mission to better protect the safety of local residents. About 6,000 staff will be sent to South Sudan, where they will be united with about 7,500 military and police personnel already deployed there.
It is imperative the U.N. resolution be implemented as promptly as possible, to resolve the South Sudanese situation.
About 30 months after its independence, South Sudan is on the brink of a civil war, as a conflict between its president and former vice president has grown into a tribal conflict. International engagement is essential for preventing the conflict from degenerating into civil war.
The United States has begun to intermediate between the warring parties with the aim of seeking a solution to the problem through dialogue.
Japan should contribute to the international peace initiative in South Sudan, a task that should be carried out with close attention to the safety of GSDF personnel operating in that country.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 26, 2013)