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Japanese Military Joins U.S. And NATO In Horn Of Africa

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Japanese Military Joins U.S. And NATO In Horn Of Africa
Rick Rozoff

Japanese navy commander Keizo Kitagawa recently spoke with Agence France-Presse and disclosed that his nation was opening its first overseas military base - at any rate since the Second World War - in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

Kitagawa is assigned to the Plans and Policy Section of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as his nation's navy is called, and is in charge of the deployment.

AFP quoted the Japanese officer as stressing the unprecedented nature of the development: "This will be the only Japanese base outside our country and the first in Africa." [1]

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The military installation is to cost $40 million and is expected to accommodate Japanese troops early next year.

Djibouti rests at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, across from strife-torn Yemen, and borders the northwest corner of equally conflict-ridden Somalia. The narrow span of water separating it from Yemen is the gateway for all maritime traffic passing between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.

Naval deployments to the Gulf of Aden by several major nations and alliances - the U.S., NATO, the European Union, China, Russia, India, Iran and others - are designed to insure the free passage of commercial vessels through the above route and to protect United Nations World Food Programme deliveries to Somalia. The second concern in particular led to the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1838 in 2008, which requests that nations with military vessels in the area suppress the capture of ships and their crews for ransom. An anti-piracy mission.

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However, the above-mentioned Japanese naval officer was more direct in identifying his nation's interest in establishing a military base in Africa. Kitagawa also told AFP that "We are deploying here to fight piracy and for our self-defence. Japan is a maritime nation and the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Aden through which 20,000 vessels sail every year is worrying."

The term self-defense is not fortuitous. Article 9 of the 1947 Japanese Constitution explicitly affirms that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."

As such, in the post-World War Two period the nation's armed forces have been called the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF).

The Constitution also expressly prohibits the deployment of military forces outside of Japan, stating that it is "not permissible constitutionally to dispatch armed troops to foreign territorial land, sea and airspace for the purpose of using military power, as a so-called overseas deployment of troops, since it generally exceeds the minimum level necessary for self-defense."

That notwithstanding, in the years following the Cold War all post-Second World War proscriptions against the use of military force by the former Axis nations have been disregarded, [2] and in February of 2004 Japan dispatched 600 troops, albeit in a non-combat role, to Iraq shortly after the U.S. and British invasion of the country. The nation's navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, supplied fuel and water in support of the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom campaign in Afghanistan from 2001-2007 and again from January of 2008 to the beginning of this year, thereby violating another basic tenet of its constitution, the ban on engaging in what the document refers to as collective self-defense, the relevant section of which reads:

"Japan has the right of collective self-defense under international law. It is, however, not permissible to use the right, that is, to stop armed attack on another country with armed strength, although Japan is not under direct attack, since it exceeds the limit of use of armed strength as permitted under Article 9 of the Constitution."

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However, a 2007 Defense White Paper left the door open to further military deployments with a provision on "international peace cooperation activities."

It is in the spirit of that elastic and evasive phrase that Japan resumed support for the war in Afghanistan in 2008 and has now secured a military base on the African continent.

The Japanese official presiding over the latter project also said that "A camp will be built to house our personnel and material. Currently we are stationed at the American base." Kitagawa added that "We sent military teams to Yemen, Oman, Kenya and Djibouti. In April 2009, we chose Djibouti."

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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