Saturday, February 5, 2011

Global Article 9 Campaign Report on Japan's New Defense Policy (critics fear further undermining of Article 9)

The Global Article 9 Campaign's report on developments in Japan's military policy:
On December 17, the Japanese Cabinet published new defense guidelines - the first policy review since 2004.

Issued under the leadership of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), in power since 2009, the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) are to shape the country's defense policy over the coming years.

The policy revision takes place in a context of what the guidelines call a "global shift in the balance of power" with "the rise of emerging powers and relative change in the US influence." Indeed, Japan increasingly sees China's ongoing military modernization and North Korea's nuclear and missile development as threats to its national security. Furthermore, the new guidelines also aim to address new threats posed by cyber warfare, terrorism and piracy.

The new NDPG claim to be in conformity with Japan's defense policy tradition and Tokyo gave insurances that the country will "continue to uphold ... [its] exclusively defensive defense policy and the three non-nuclear principles." Yet critics have expressed their fear that the new guidelines may revisit some important principles enshrined in Japan's peace Constitution.

Among the most notable changes set forth by the NDPG figure the integration of the decision-making process under the leadership of the Prime Minister as part of an integrated security strategy, as well as the development of a "dynamic defense capability" (as opposed to Japan's traditional basic deterrence-based security policy). Though China is not explicitly mentioned in this context, analysts explain the shift as clearly referring to China - the language used in the guidelines being "southbound". A more proactive and flexible military approach will require a shift of resources from conventional heavy forces to more flexible and mobile capability (notably with an upgrade of Japan's fighter jets and expansion of its submarine fleet).

At the center of the review lies the desire to "deepen" the alliance with the US, deemed as "indispensable" to Japan's security. Washington has long been calling for Japan to play a stronger security role in the region. The NDPG also recommend the strengthening of security cooperation through "multi-layered" bilateral and multilateral frameworks in Asia-Pacific, notably with South Korea and Australia.

Further, the document calls for "a more efficient and effective manner" of participating in international peace cooperation activities. This implies a review of Japan's five principles on Peacekeeping operations - notably further discussions on the criteria for the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces abroad and the use of weapons, whose conformity with Article 9 of Japan's Constitution has been much debated.

The new defense policy, however, has refrained from explicitly calling for a review of the country's longstanding ban of arms exports.

Established in 1967 in the spirit of Article 9 of the Constitution, Japan's Three Principles on Arms Exports do not permit exports of weapons to Communist bloc countries, countries subject to United Nations sanctions, or countries involved in international conflicts. The export ban was virtually extended to all countries in 1976.

Though the government had initially been considering a review of the so-called three principles with the intention of loosening them, it eventually decided against including the debate in the NDPG to avoid alienating the Social Democratic Party, whose support was crucial. The issue of arms exports remains however at the center of the debate, as the government foresees that Japan will ''consider measures to deal with major changes" in that regard in the Diet and at the national level. But Seijo University associate professor Aoi Miho warns: ''the three principles are measures that embody Article 9, and as such should not be changed readily.''

The newly adopted defense policy guidelines are a source of concern among many lawmakers and political analysts in Japan and in the region.

Indeed, China perceives the new defense guidelines as "provocative" and "irresponsible," and criticized the NDPG stating they "will only create more suspicion and mistrust in the region." Likewise, Japanese analysts fear they could jeopardize regional peace and stability by creating suspicion and distrust among the country's neighbors, who may interpret the review as an indication of Tokyo's willingness to raise Japan's military profile.

In Japan, critics have raised their voice against what they consider to be a move in the wrong direction.

The Democratic Party of Japan was elected in 2009 after a campaign that put forward the DPJ's pacifist orientation, notably in regards to the US presence in Okinawa. The new NDPG, to many, seem to be questioning some of the core values enshrined in Article 9 of Japan's Constitution.

Foreign Minister Maehara Seiji, answering questions on the new policy, said: "The foundation of our country is our Constitution, and the three pillars are fundamental human rights, democracy, and pacifism... At the same time, however, I think that we must react properly to the changing times."

The debate over reviewing Japan's arms export policy and participation in UN peacekeeping operations abroad, as well as the country's new positioning in the region threaten to tarnish Japan's postwar pacifist image.

In the words of military journalist Maeda Tetsuo: ''Japan has had a brand image as a nation that neither sells weapons nor sends combat troops abroad, and for this, it has been valued by the world."

Article 9 of the Constitution renounces war as a means of settling international disputes and prohibits the maintenance of armed forces and other war potential. It has also acted as an international peace mechanism that calls for a global peace that does not rely on force.

Read a summary of the NDPG report here.

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