Emerging from Behind the U.S. Shield: Japan's Strategy of Dynamic Deterrence and Defense Forces

By MacIntyre, Douglas John | Joint Force Quarterly, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Emerging from Behind the U.S. Shield: Japan's Strategy of Dynamic Deterrence and Defense Forces


MacIntyre, Douglas John, Joint Force Quarterly


I do not believe that it is a good idea for Japan to depend on the United States for her security over next 50 or 100 years.

--Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, June 10, 2010

As the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan passed its 50-year milestone in 2010, tectonic shifts within the societal, economic, geopolitical, and military landscape of East Asia were already posing serious challenges to many of the treaty's basic tenets. Within the depths of a global financial crisis, domestic stagnation, internal political change, and the shadow of China's rise, Japan's leaders have continued the decades-long transformation of their country's instruments of national power. The most far-reaching of these changes occurred in December 2010, when Japan announced a new national security strategy that established a defense force capable of dynamic deterrence: the use of multifunctional, flexible, and responsive military capabilities to respond to complex contingencies and "secure deterrence by the existence of defense capability" in order to contribute to stability within the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the environmental and national political crisis triggered by the cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, Japan's commitment to this strategy is underscored by the fact that the annual budgets for 2011 and 2012 continued defense funding, including acquisitions programs and capability development, at a rate greater than 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). (1)

Adopting a strategy of dynamic deterrence, Japan's current generation of leaders has stepped beyond previous strategies--held captive by the legacy of World War II--in order to set the conditions for a near-term resurgence in Asia. Building on decades of incremental reforms, they have focused on national core values of autonomy and prestige to redefine Japan's security strategy in terms of its own national interests within current and future security environments and to develop a more balanced and symmetrical military capability. Japan's new strategic trajectory presents the United States with an opportunity to renew influence in Asia relative to China; increase cooperation and joint interoperability among diplomatic, economic, and security partners; and foster cooperative engagement through strengthened regional institutions.

Core Values, Vital Interests, and Realism

Japan's primary core values are autonomy, reflected in rejection of dependence, and prestige, with shame dependent upon the observations of others. (2) Ensuring economic prosperity and maintaining its leadership role within the balance of power in Asia are enduring, nonnegotiable vital interests. The ideal balance of these values was expressed within Japan's foreign policy and grand strategy during the period following the Meiji Restoration and rise of the nation as a great power during the early 20th century. Unique to Japan and in direct conflict with its core values, its national interests have been defined since World War II primarily by its relationship with the United States, characterized by reduced sovereignty, minimal military capability, and constraints imposed by its U.S.-developed constitution. Rather than pursuing its own national interests aligned with its core values, Japan has followed a path more in concert with its common security interests with the United States, including preserving stability, maintaining freedom of action and navigation within the global commons, maintaining leadership roles in regional and global multilateral institutions, keeping the Korean Peninsula peaceful, maintaining peace within the Taiwan Strait, defending against terrorism, avoiding regional proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and ensuring the independence of Southeast Asia. (3)

Realism defines international relations in terms of a nation's use of its means--the diplomatic, information, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement capability--to increase its power and position relative to other nations as it reacts to changes within the regional and inter-national geopolitical environments. …

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Emerging from Behind the U.S. Shield: Japan's Strategy of Dynamic Deterrence and Defense Forces
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