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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007

Fukuda seeks set law on SDF deployments

Staff writer

Japan needs a permanent law to allow the dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces overseas so they can carry out peace activities whenever requested, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Friday.

Yasuo Fukuda

Currently, special laws are enacted each time it is deemed it necessary to deploy the SDF abroad, such as the special antiterrorism bill to enable the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean, which is currently being deliberated in the Diet.

According to Fukuda, it usually takes a couple of months to enact such laws, and even at the least, no less than one month.

"Because (Japan doesn't have a permanent law), the SDF cannot (participate) in emergency peace cooperation activities or humanitarian activities," Fukuda said in an interview with The Japan Times. "I think it is necessary to have a permanent law to create a system so (the SDF can be deployed) whenever (necessary) with approval from the Diet."

Fukuda said he hoped to consult with the opposition camp to submit a bill for a permanent law to the Diet as soon as possible.

Regarding the new system of fingerprinting and photographing foreigners entering Japan, Fukuda said the process is necessary as a means to prevent terrorism and added it has already proven effective.

He noted the world has increasingly turned to fingerprinting after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., noting stricter enforcement is better than the alternative: a greater spread of terrorism worldwide.

Amid angry protests from civil rights groups and foreign residents, Japan followed the U.S. lead and began collecting biometric data from foreigners last month. The revision of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law, which was approved by the Diet in May 2006, stipulates that all foreigners aged 16 and older must be photographed and fingerprinted, including those with permanent residency and with Japanese spouses.

Fukuda did not exclude the possibility — albeit slight — that things might be eased in the future.

"It is necessary to consider the situation (of the times)," Fukuda said, adding there may come a day when the threat of terrorism has disappeared, and with it, the need for such strict monitoring.

On other matters, Fukuda strongly underscored the importance of official development assistance, keeping in mind the upcoming Tokyo International Conference on African Development next May and the Group of Eight summit next July in Hokkaido.

But he admitted Japan has been cutting back on its ODA budget due to the nation's fiscal straits. "ODA as a diplomatic tool, especially for Japan, which is pursuing peace diplomacy. It is extremely important," Fukuda said. "Just because (Japan) is in a tight financial situation doesn't mean (we) can easily slash (the ODA budget)."

The 71-year-old son of the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda entered politics at age 53. He became the 91st prime minister and president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in September after his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, stepped down suddenly in September. Abe's quick exit prompted Fukuda to keep Abe's Cabinet mostly intact.

But now that the extraordinary Diet session has been extended for a second time and will not expire until Jan. 15, some speculate that Fukuda may change out his Cabinet before the next ordinary Diet session begins in mid-January.

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The Japan Times

Article 4 of 10 in National news

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