Japan's Security Policy

By Saito, Toshio | Strategic Forum, May 1999 | Go to article overview

Japan's Security Policy


Saito, Toshio, Strategic Forum


Conclusions

* Uncertainty remains in the Asia-Pacific region years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several nations in the region are expanding or modernizing their military capabilities. Continuing tension on the Korean peninsula, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems add, to the region's instability.

* Based on "the National Defense Program Outline in and after FY 1996", Japan is reshaping its defense capability, but it remains committed to four fundamentals: it maintains an exclusively defense-oriented policy, avoids developing military capabilities that might threaten other countries, adheres to non-nuclear principles, and upholds civilian control of the military.

* The Japan-U.S. Joint Declaration on Security: Alliance for the 21st Century in April 1996 reaffirmed the importance of the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements. The declaration addressed bilateral cooperative efforts designed to increase the credibility of the security relationship and the initiation of a review of the 1978 Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.

* North Korea's missile launch in August 1998 awakened most Japanese to the military threats facing Japan and stimulated discussion on Guideline-related bills and on the legal issues concerning emergency situations.

* The Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) need to develop joint operational expertise and overall intelligence capabilities for dealing with emergency situations. The SDF also needs to use defense diplomacy to help develop a more stable regional security environment.

Japan's Basic Defense Policies

Following World War II Japan's Imperial Army and Navy were dissolved, and the old regime was replaced with a democratic government. Article 9 of the new Constitution of Japan renounced war or even possessing combat potential.

However, the Cold War and the Korean War forced Japan to reestablish defensive capabilities. A constitutional interpretation of Article 9 grants Japan the inherent right of self-defense and the possession of the minimum armed strength needed to exercise that right. The Government of Japan (GOJ) viewpoint has been that building forces to defend the region, even under a collective defense umbrella, exceeds the minimum necessary strength required for the self-defense of Japan.

The GOJ has maintained the SDF, improved its defensive capability, and conducted operations, in accordance with four fundamentals.

Exclusively Defense-Oriented Policy. This policy means that defense forces cannot be used until an armed attack on Japan is initiated by another country, and that the use of such forces is kept to the minimum necessary for self-defense. Moreover, the defense capability of Japan must be limited to the minimum necessary level.

Not Posing a Military Threat to other Countries. Japan will not possess, beyond the minimum necessary level for self-defense, military forces strong enough to pose a military threat to other countries.

Adhering to Three Non-Nuclear Principles. The three non-nuclear principles include: "not possessing nuclear weapons, not producing them and not permitting their introduction in Japan." Japan ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1976, placing itself under obligation, as a non-nuclear weapon state, not to produce or acquire nuclear weapons.

Ensuring Civilian Control of the Military. The democratic government maintains control of the military. Due to the regrettable situations in Japan in the pre-World War II era, it has adopted an uncompromising system of civilian controls.

National Defense Program Outline in and after FY 1996

Until FY 1995, Japan had been improving its defense capability pursuant to the 1976 "National Defense Program Outline (NDPO)." The SDF has played increasingly diverse roles in dealing with large-scale disasters and contributing towards a more stable security environment by participating in international peace cooperation activities, in addition to its principal mission of defending Japan. …

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