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Kan draws criticism with forces dispatch comments

Posted December. 13, 2010 11:16,   


Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is under fire for saying he wants to deploy Japan’s Self-Defense Force to rescue Japanese nationals in both Koreas in case of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

Kan said Saturday, “Even if we want to save our people through transport planes of the Japanese military, we cannot since there are no rules between Japan and (South) Korea,” adding, “Given that a cooperative relationship with (South) Korea on national security guarantees is making progress, we’d like to begin negotiations gradually.”

At a Friday meeting with the families of Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korea, he said, “We are pursuing discussion under the thought that (Tokyo and Seoul) should make things certain to allow our troops to conduct rescue operations in case of contingencies.”

Kan’s comments have increased the scope of rescue from 10 Japanese abductees to more than 28,000 Japanese residents in South Korea. His hint that Japanese forces could be allowed to conduct operations on Korean soil has also rattled nerves given Japan’s brutal colonial rule of the peninsula from 1910-45.

South Korea seemed embarrassed over Kan’s words. A government official in Seoul said, “The dispatch of Japan’s Self-Defense Force has never been discussed or brought up between the two countries,” adding, “A country can take interest in the safety of its people, but Kan’s comment can be interpreted that the political situation on the Korean Peninsula has grown serious. So it’s doubtful whether the comment is appropriate.”

An official at the South Korean presidential office said, “The comment should be viewed as a slip of tongue that is never feasible.”

Another official also said, “Basically, the comment is unacceptable and has never been considered.”

Japanese media echoed the officials’ opinions, with one saying, “Prime Minister Kan’s comment is unrealistic and has a high possibility of violating laws.”

The Japanese daily Mainichi Shimbun said, “Article 9 of the Constitution that bans the use of armed forces and the law on the Self-Defense Force do not suppose the rescue of our people in combat areas,” adding, “The law on the Self-Defense Force allows it to transport our people only when safety is guaranteed in contingencies abroad.”

The newspaper also quoted an official of the Japanese Defense Ministry as saying, “Safety cannot be assured in a contingency. Kan’s comment is unrealistic.”

Japan has a security agreement with the U.S. but Tokyo cannot deploy its troops to the Korean Peninsula since its constitution bans exercising the right to self-defense even if U.S. forces in South Korea are attacked by North Korea. Japan’s operation of its Self-Defense Force is limited to U.N.-led peacekeeping efforts.

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