Japan mulls protecting Aussie forces

Japan mulls protecting Aussie forces
The resolution allows the SDF to help allies like the Philippines and the United States even if Japan itself is not under attack.

TOKYO - Japan is considering allowing the Self-Defence Forces to come to the defence of the Australian military in the event it comes under attack during joint exercises, part of a broader effort to enhance the nation's defence powers.

Last July, the cabinet changed the government's interpretation of the constitution to allow Japan to defend friendly nations. The plan at that time was to seek legislation that would authorise the SDF to protect American military ships and aircraft if they come under attack during joint exercises or surveillance, in situations that fall short of emergencies involving Japan.

The government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party will now discuss adding Australian forces to this arrangement given that Tokyo is deepening its security ties with Canberra. Japan and Australia have a framework for sharing defence intelligence and are conducting joint in-flight refueling and other exercises in Guam, along with US forces, this month.

If the SDF is authorised to protect only American forces, they would not be able to come to the aid of Australian forces even if they are attacked during joint exercises, says a senior Defence Ministry official.

However, many members of Komeito, the LDP's junior partner in the ruling coalition, are opposed to creating legislation that goes beyond what was decided earlier by the cabinet.

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