While the relative power of U.S. armed forces is declining, the security environment in the East Asian region has become increasingly challenging, namely, the situation in North Korea has become unstable and China is aiming to expand its maritime interests. In addition to its provocative actions around the Senkaku Islands, China is causing conflicts over territorial rights in the South China Sea. We must face up to the fact that we must protect our country ourselves and, instead of averting our eyes away from national defense issues, need to make serious efforts to develop national security policies for this new era.
1. Develop a National Security Strategy!
For many years in Japan there was no national security strategy. The Basic Policy for National Defense adopted in 1957 and the four principles (commitment to exclusively defense-oriented policy, not becoming a military power, commitment to civilian control, and commitment to the three non-nuclear principles) approved by the Cabinet in 1987 are still the only basic policies concerning Japan’s national security and defense. Both have remained unchanged to the present.
In December 2013, however, the National Security Strategy (NSS) was approved by the Cabinet as the top-level guideline on Japan’s national security strategy. NSS advocates a “proactive contribution to peace” and positions Japan’s defense force as the final guarantee of its national security. The aim of the NSS is to build a comprehensive defense architecture. This kind of political action should be positively commended.
2. Approve the Implementation of the Right of Collective Self-Defense, Protect National Interests and Contribute to World Peace!
Japan at present does not have capabilities to ensure its own protection by itself. For example, in ballistic missile defense, without information from the U.S. Shared Early Warning (SEW) system, the ballistic missile defense system cannot function. Considering this situation, it goes without saying that Japan’s national security is founded upon the Japan-U.S. alliance.
However, because the exercise of the right of collective self-defense has not been permitted, Japan and the United States have not been equal partners in military terms. Under these circumstances, the government approved national security legislation that enables Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. This has allowed Japan to take actions to protect U.S. vessels if they are attacked by a third country before Japan itself is attacked, and to exercise the right of self-defense in cases where needed, including the interception of missiles fired at the United States. In the future, it will be important to improve the effectiveness of responses by the Self-Defense Forces in such a situation.
3. Establish a System that Encourages Active Participation in International Peace Cooperation!
With the revision of the Self-Defense Forces Law in 2007, international peace cooperation activities have been upgraded to a primary duty of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), allowing the SDF to participate in activities such as the peacekeeping operation (PKO) in Cambodia and activities other than PKOs, such as its dispatch to Iraq and the Indian Ocean. There has been a drastic change in the needs for international peace cooperation activities in the world. In response, Japan should be more actively involved in international cooperation.
Japan develops special measures laws on a case-by-case basis to determine whether or not to dispatch the SDF. In place of this conventional method, a comprehensive law regarding international peace cooperation should be developed to enable more extensive international cooperation, including timely participation of the SDF in international cooperation activities and reconstruction of failed states. The national security legislation enacted in 2015 permanently allows the SDF to provide logistics support to armed forces of foreign countries. Further expansion in the scope of SDF activities is expected.
4. Review Rules for the Use of Arms by Self-Defense Forces Troops Overseas!
The use of arms by Self Defense Forces troops overseas is controlled by extremely strict rules, imposing a significant burden on Self-Defense officers participating in activities and restricting what they can do. These rules should be amended in line with international standards. Under the national security legislation enacted in 2015, the law was revised to allow the SDF to use arms to rescue civilians overseas (so-called “kaketsuke-keigo”) and to use arms to accomplish its missions. It is necessary to gather opinions from Self-Defense officers in the field, based on which the current system should be reviewed in such a way as to facilitate international contribution.