Concerns could be raised that the latest dispatch of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) helicopter carrier Izumo to protect a U.S. Navy supply ship in the Pacific Ocean will lead to the unlimited expansion of Japan's operations to guard U.S. military vessels.
In December last year, the government worked out guidelines for Self-Defense Force (SDF) missions to protect the vessels of U.S. troops engaged in operations that contribute to the defense of Japan in cooperation with the SDF. Such operations are based on Paragraph 2, Article 95 of the SDF Act. The provision allows minimal use of weapons by SDF personnel participating in such missions.
The Defense Ministry conducted a command-post exercise in January assuming a mission to guard U.S. vessels. The government had initially planned to have the MSDF guard U.S. vessels during Japan-U.S. joint exercises to be held before this coming autumn, and then launch full-scale operations, according to sources close to the government. However, Japan brought forward the launch as tensions over North Korea heightened in April, the sources said.
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