TOKYO: The Japanese government is now considering implementing a planned Self-Defense Forces dispatch to the Middle East after the start of next year, informed sources said Friday.
The government initially mulled the SDF dispatch within this year at the earliest to ensure safe navigation of Japanese commercial vessels, but it now finds that it needs more time to draw up a dispatch plan carefully, by clearing many issues including what activities SDF troops would engage in and what equipment they would carry, the sources said.
The government also faces calls from the ruling parties not to rush to send SDF troops to the region.
It plans to explain the SDF dispatch as a research mission under the Defense Ministry establishment law.
For the mission, the government plans to send an additional Maritime SDF destroyer to the Middle East while redeploying one of its surveillance aircraft currently engaged in antipiracy operations off Somalia.
Defense Minister Taro Kono on Friday mentioned the possibility of the research mission switching to a sea patrol mission under the SDF law "if the situation changes."
The law allows SDF vessels on a sea patrol mission to protect Japanese ships. But there are concerns that such a defense operation would contradict the legal research purpose.
Meanwhile, the government has not yet decided the period of time for the planned SDF dispatch, as it appears to be looking to coordinate with a U.S.-led maritime coalition in the region.
A ruling Komeito executive said the government should draw up an exit strategy in advance to prevent the planned dispatch from being prolonged.