Japan's participation in United Nations peace operations has long suffered from an underlying tension between the country's general support for the United Nations and its deep-rooted reluctance to use military force.1
The devastation of the Second World War had created an abiding suspicion among the Japanese toward military organizations and military solutions. This suspicion was manifest in the strong support for article 9 of the Showa Constitution of 1946, which renounced war and the means to prosecute war. At the same time, Japan has consistently been one of the strongest proponents of the United Nations. Since the time Japan was admitted to membership in the UN in 1956, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has made every effort to play an active role in all aspects of the organization, except those involving the military. The Japanese public generally approved these efforts. However, as the UN's primary role of maintaining peace and security revives with the demise of the Cold War and its peace operations expand and diversify, Japan has come under growing pressure to commit more substantially to peace operations under UN auspices, including direct participation in UN military activities.
In the 1990s, the tension came to the fore in a dramatic fashion, as the government and people of Japan were compelled to reconsider the policy defining the scope of Japanese contributions to UN peace operations. The Peacekeeping Law adopted on June 19, 19922 is the main building block of that policy. The revision of the Peacekeeping Law in 1998,3 and
1 L. William Heinrich, Akiho Shibata, and Yoshihide Soeya, United Nations Peace-keeping
Operations: AGuide to Japanese Policies (Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 1999),
2 “The Law Concerning Cooperation for the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and
Other Operations,” Law No. 79 (June 19, 1992). For an unofficial translation, see (1993)
36 Japanese Annual of International Law 272–89.
3 Law No. 102 (June 12, 1998).