Will Japan ditch pacifism to fight pirates?

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun reported today that the Japanese Diet (parliament) will consider amending the country’s pacifist consitution to allow the use of force against pirates. Since the end of the World War II, the Japanese constitution has stipulated that its military hold only non-combat roles. Is this a first step on the way ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
589721_090108_navy5.jpg
589721_090108_navy5.jpg

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun reported today that the Japanese Diet (parliament) will consider amending the country's pacifist consitution to allow the use of force against pirates.

Since the end of the World War II, the Japanese constitution has stipulated that its military hold only non-combat roles. Is this a first step on the way to bigger non-combat roles or even combat for Japanese troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

"This is like putting your little pinky in the water -- or even maybe your big toe," says Gerald Curtis, an expert on the Japanese military at Columbia. "Piracy is an opportunity to do something that isn't really the use of force to settle an international [problem]."

The Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun reported today that the Japanese Diet (parliament) will consider amending the country’s pacifist consitution to allow the use of force against pirates.

Since the end of the World War II, the Japanese constitution has stipulated that its military hold only non-combat roles. Is this a first step on the way to bigger non-combat roles or even combat for Japanese troops in places like Iraq and Afghanistan?

“This is like putting your little pinky in the water — or even maybe your big toe,” says Gerald Curtis, an expert on the Japanese military at Columbia. “Piracy is an opportunity to do something that isn’t really the use of force to settle an international [problem].”

If Japan is ready to take the fight to the pirate, they’re just in time. The United States announced today that its Navy will head up a new 20-country coaltion of boats to fight piracy off the Somali coast. Some of the countries in that coalition “did not have the authority to conduct counter-piracy missions,” according to the Navy’s statement. Defense department spokesman Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder clarified for me: “There were some nations who were members of [the task force] who were not able to conduct counter-piracy operations based on their national charters.” The countries in the coalition have not been announced yet, but that certainly sounds like a description of Japan.

The U.S. taskforce has an impressive roster, including two ships, two aircraft, and the 1,000 personnel on ships assigned to “assist” the operation, according to Ryder. The mission will collaborate with the EU mission already deployed.

As for tactics, Ryder includes “increased patrols of heavily trafficked areas, enhanced planning and coordinated execution of operations, hard intelligence and demonstrations of force.”

Sounds like they read Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper’s advice. Time to kick some pirate booty!

Photo: U.S. Navy 

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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