Following the break-up of the NEW FRONTIER PARTY (NFP) at the end of December 1997, the Upper House Kōmei group, which had stood apart from the NFP but was allied with it, in January 1998 formed the Daybreak Club. This then formed an important element in the process of reconstruction of the CLEAN GOVERNMENT PARTY, finalised in November.
Since the 1960s, except for the years 1986, 1987 and 1989, Japanese defence spending has been running at less than 1 per cent of gross national product. Nakasone, as Prime Minister in the mid-1980s, deliberately broke the '1 per cent ceiling', but after three years, during which the proportion marginally exceeded 1 per cent, it sank back to its usual levels. As a proportion of annual Government expenditure, defence spending has averaged slightly more than 6 per cent since 1986. The figures, however, need careful scrutiny. Japan does not include pensions and other benefits provided to former service personnel in the defence budget, as is standard among NATO countries. If these payments were added, the proportion of GNP would rise to substantially over 1 per cent.
Because of the constitutional constraints created by article 9 of the 1946 Constitution, and because of the great sensitivity of defence as a political issue, Japan does not possess an army, navy or air force. In their stead it has Ground Self-Defence Forces, Maritime Self-Defence Forces and Air Self-Defence Forces. The titles of ranks in these three services were deliberately made different from those of the former Imperial Armed Forces. The military capacities of the Self-Defence Forces (SDF, jieitai) are, however, substantial. Total personnel numbers are close to a quarter of a million, and in 1997 the three services between them 'deployed over 1,000 battle tanks, 510 aircraft, and 160 surface ships and submarines' (Hook et al., 2001, p. 12). It is sometimes stated that Japan ranks number three or number four in the world in defence capacity. This needs to be qualified, however. Japan has no nuclear weapons capability, virtually none of her troops have any battle experience, and the SDF have had to keep a low profile in the face of widespread pacifist sentiment, even though this may now be declining to some extent. There is no conscription for military service.
In a somewhat paradoxical fashion, public opinion polls show an overwhelming majority approving the existence of the SDF, but a majority also supporting the peace clause of the Constitution that purports to ban armed forces. Moreover, many people, when polled, appear to regard the SDF as much as a disaster relief organisation as a body whose principal task is to fight wars. On the other hand, since the passage in 1992 of the Peace-Keeping Operations (PKO) bill, contingents from the SDF have assisted with UN peace-keeping exercises, in a non-military capacity, in various trouble spots, most notably Cambodia in 1992-3. This has not met the degree of domestic opposition that was widely predicted at the time. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, Parliament authorised the