There have been several recent developments that are positive for the U.S.-Japan alliance. The two countries successfully conducted Japan’s ballistic missile defense (BMD) test in Hawaii last month. On January 11, the new Replenishment Support Special Measures Law was finally enacted when the House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet overrode the opposition of the House of Councilors. A revision of a previous measure that expired in November 2007, the law authorizes the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) to conduct refueling operations for coalition forces in the Indian Ocean, which are expected to resume as early as late February. More significantly, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are finally thinking more seriously about a permanent legal framework to authorize Self-Defense Force (SDF) missions overseas. Although the prospects for such legislation in the near future remain unclear, this is a step in the right direction for Japan, as it paves the way to end Japan’s past ad hoc responses to requests for SDF support. However, a series of scandals involving the Ministry of Defense of Japan (MOD) could be a roadblock for Tokyo and Washington going forward.
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