Japan's Cabinet is set to approve Friday new defense guidelines
that will allow the nation's troops to participate more actively in
the international arena in the face of regional tensions and in
response to such threats as terrorism.
The outline, which will be the framework for the nation's defense
policy for the next 10 years, highlights North Korea as a
significant destabilizing factor in East Asia, names China as a
potential threat, and opens the possibility of Japan relaxing its
ban on arms exports.
Coming less than a year after Japanese forces were sent to Iraq
on their first mission since World War II to a nation where armed
conflict was still continuing, the guidelines mark another step away
from Japan's exclusively defense-oriented security policy of the
The change, say analysts, has been prompted by increased
militarization in Japan's neighborhood, the desire of Washington for
greater help in its defense partnership with Japan, and a
calculation by Tokyo that it could advance foreign policy aims
better if it could bring some military contributions - not just
dollar diplomacy - to the table.
While Japan has been "trying to strengthen its regional
preparedness in the last few years, the government has also
emphasized that the eventual aim is to integrate ... states like
China and North Korea into the circle [of nations that] uphold
liberal values," says Hiromi Nagata, an expert on Japanese security
policy at the University of London.
The review marks only the second overhaul of Japan's defense
policy since the end of the cold war, and comes as the Japanese
Cabinet decided Thursday to extend the deployment of the nation's
Self-Defense Forces to Iraq by another year. The decision was
reached despite polls showing public opposition to the move at
around 65 percent.
Ms. Nagata says the public may come to support the extension of
the humanitarian mission in the future in the same manner that
Japanese participation in UN peacekeeping operations was gradually
Earlier plans to extend the SDF mission in Iraq included
provisions to increase the number of troops beyond the almost 600
now stationed in Samawah, Iraq. This idea now appears to have been
quietly abandoned in the face of public opposition, and the
government plans to revise the basic plan for the deployment to
provide leeway for the possibility of an early withdrawal. The
security situation may become more difficult after March when the
Dutch forces who provide armed protection for the Japanese are set
to leave Iraq.
The new guidelines show that Japan is eager to play a more active
role in maintaining international security, but also show that tight
government finances may thwart the newfound ambitions. …