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Diet passes U.S.-Japan defense guidelines bills

Date Posted: 1999-05-29

A full session of the Diet's Upper House passed Monday a set of defense cooperation guideline bills aimed at strengthening security ties between Japan and the United States. In what Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi declared was a "truly significant" passage, the bills will allow Japan to act in a support role to U.S. forces in "areas surrounding Japan." The new guidelines allow Japan self-defense forces to give the U.S. military greater logistic support and participate in search-and-rescue operations for U.S. military personnel. The passage of the bills cements the Liberal Democratic Party and Liberal Party coalition, while giving the New Komeito Party, who held the balance of power in passing the bills, greater sway with the two major conservative parties.

The latest amendments to the defense cooperation guidelines, almost two years since revisions were last made to shore-up security ties between the two nations, do not include any reference to ship inspections, a contentious issue that split party ranks and forced New Komeito and the Liberals to delete the clause. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura has asked Okinawa to understand the need for the new guidelines, stating it is a necessary part of Japan's security policy.

According to a report in the Asahi newspaper, Komura said, "We have drawn up the guidelines legislation in an attempt" to avoid military emergencies. The foreign minister said several scenarios involving such emergencies in "areas surrounding Japan" incorporate U.S. military facilities in Okinawa. "I would be very grateful if the people of Okinawa would understand the importance of the guidelines," the Asahi quoted Komura as saying Sunday.

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