Sunday, 22 July 2012

Understanding Japan's Defense Policy

Japan's Self-Defense Force (SDF)

Recently, the security environment around Japan and East Asia is quite challenging due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and China’s increasing military budget and modernization. In addition, the issues of Taiwan and unification of the Korean peninsula, and maritime territorial disputes such as the Spratly Island., Paracel Islands, and the Scarborough Shoal have soured bilateral relations among some countries and continue to destabilize peace in East Asia as a whole. In general, it is a conflict-prone environment and necessary policy implications are needed to be considered in order to prevent escalation of conflicts. On the other hand, all of these issues prompt the need to have a strong multilateral security forum in East Asia and also in the Asia-Pacific, especially ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and East Asia Summit (EAS) to improve the security environment and promote trust among all countries. For Japan, as an island nation, its security issue is indispensable with Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) which is not only the route of supply for its economic activities, but also its maritime security and cooperation.

Japan’s Defense Policy
In general, Japan’s defense policy is moderate (upholding three non-nuclear principles and not becoming a military power), sticks to Article 9 of its Constitution, and is based on Japan-US Security Treaty. Japan’s defense policy is based on three main components, namely its own efforts, cooperation with the United States, and cooperation with the international community. Due to the current security environment in the region and in the world, it is vital that the three main components are equally promoted within the national, regional, and international levels.
First, Japan’s own effort is focused on any direct threat to Japan by using all available means. In this context, the Security Council of Japan is responsible for making appropriate decisions to make a swift response by bringing together the Self-Defense Force (SDF), police, and Coast Guard. Due to the changing regional and international environment, the National Defense Program Guidelines (established in 2004) is under review to cope with new challenges such as North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, China’s continued military build-up and assertiveness, anti-piracy, and disaster reliefs (Haiti and other countries), etc.
Second, cooperation with the United States is based on Japan-US Security Treaty which is also not only for Japan’s security, but also critically important for peace and stability in East Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region. Close security cooperation between Japan and the US is needed to prevent new threats and other contingencies. Therefore, Japan and the US have been jointly developing the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) technology in order to protect Japan and the US from ballistic missile attacks. The Japan-US Cooperative Research Project was established in 1999, followed by a series of bilateral summits in 2002 and 2003 and ministerial meetings to enhance the joint cooperation in this critical issue.    
Third, cooperation with the international community covers a broad range of issues and means in how to contribute to international peace and stability, which in return also contribute to Japan’s efforts to peace and prosperity. On the one hand, this approach necessitates two level of cooperation simultaneously, (1) at the regional and, (2) at international level. On the other hand, it involves the use of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to promote economic development of the war-torn countries and developing countries. Under the framework of the United Nations, Japan has sent SDF to joint Peace-Keeping Operations (PKOs) in some countries, especially in Cambodia (1991-93). For regional level, Japan views the importance of roles of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), in which ASEAN is at the core of regional cooperation, in contributing to maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Some Japanese defense officials expressed that Japan considered ARF as a multilateral security forum of increasing importance and its security cooperation should be diversified and strengthened, especially cooperation on disaster reliefs.

According to the recent pressing security environment around Japan, it seems necessary for Japan to pay more attention and efforts on its own defense. Furthermore, Japan-US Security Alliance is still the cornerstone for Japan’s security and stability. The rise of China, economically and militarily, is not the only concern for Japan, but it is also for the international community as a whole. Therefore, I think that maintaining good trilateral relations between Japan-US-China is very important for peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific.  
At the regional level, ARF should be used to enhance security dialogue in the region through confidence building and conflict prevention. The role of ARF in preventing escalation of conflict is also important in East Asia. However, due to ARF’s lack of resources and poor political will of its members make it difficult to achieve what is stated in the ARF Vision Statement adopted in 2009. However, since 2011 in Bali, East Asia Summit, which now also include U.S. and Russia, is now becoming a security forum of increasing importance for dialogue among leaders of 16 countries (10 ASEAN countries plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, U.S. and Russia). The 2nd EAS Foreign Minister Meeting in Phnom Penh on 12 July 2012, is a showcase of commitment of ASEAN, China, U.S., and other relevant countries for solving the difference in the disputes of South China Sea.         
On international level, Japan is increasing its contribution to maintain international peace, and stability through, ODAs, PKOs, disaster reliefs, and anti-piracy efforts. All of these efforts have raised the good image of Japan as a responsible member of the international community. 


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