Japan plans to begin training its Self-Defense Forces in carrying out new missions abroad under revised security laws which took effect this past spring, a government source said Friday.
Training to begin as soon as next Thursday will be held within Japan, and focus on preparing SDF troops for two new missions—rescuing U.N. staff and other people under attack, and jointly defending with troops from other nations the barracks of U.N. peacekeepers if they are attacked.
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada is set to make a formal announcement next Wednesday, according to the source.
The new missions have become possible as the criteria for use of arms by SDF members were eased under the new laws.
The revised laws mark a major shift in Japan’s postwar security policy by explicitly enabling the country to engage in collective self-defense and by expanding the sorts of missions the SDF can engage in abroad. They will enter an operational phase through the drills, and as concern persists the changes could erode Japan’s postwar pacifism.
The laws became effective in March, but no new training has yet been conducted as the government was apparently concerned about a potential negative impact on public opinion ahead of last month’s House of Councillors election.
The sorts of new missions envisioned by the legal revisions could be assigned to an SDF unit set to join a U.N. peacekeeping operation in South Sudan in November, the source said. Japan has participated in the U.N. operation in that African country since 2012.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is likely to make a final decision on whether to assign the new duties to the troops after assessing the situation in South Sudan, and whether the SDF unit is suitably prepared, the source said.
The training is expected to be closed to the public, the source said.