Reinterpretation of Article 9 and Japan’s Security Destination 1

On July 2014, the Japanese government approved a controversial reinterpretation of the Article 9 of nation’s Constitution that will lift the ban on exercising collective self-defense. This historic change will allow Japanese troops to fight overseas with their ally, the United States, for the first time since the WWII.

The Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in press conference, “the new security strategy is necessary to deal with growing threats in the Asia Pacific region.”  He said, “being fully prepared is effective in discouraging any attempt to wage a war on Japan... that is my conviction.” 

When announced, Abe’s decision sparked sharp pubic opposition and thousands of demonstrators occupied Tokyo streets in defense of the “Pacifist Constitution” that came into effect in 1947. Critics argue that the reinterpretation of the Article 9 is, strategically, a profound mistake that will increase the chance of Japan getting involved in warfare. Abe is also criticized for making this decision without adequate discussion in parliament or of even greater importance, a referendum that is required to change the constitution.

Although Abe’s administration still needs the passage of numerous pieces of legislation in the Japanese Diet in order to have the reinterpretation become effective, Abe is planning to accomplish it after upcoming national election scheduled for December 14th. The coalition government, consisting of the Liberal Democratic Party (“LDP”) and the Komei Party, are likely to win and keep their majority. 

This paper will examine the current security environment throughout the Asia-Pacific region and what impact the reinterpretation of Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution will bring about, and explore the best alternatives for Japan’s security strategy.

Continue to read

posted by Oceanlove at 19:50| 日本の政治 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Reinterpretation of Article 9 and Japan’s Security Destination 4

Irrational action will cost Japan

While it is true that China is becoming a major political, economic, and military power in the world, it does not necessary mean China is a threat to Japan. What Japan needs to do is to develop its own security strategy in the context of the newly established U.S.-China relationship.  As fighting proxy wars with China is not the U.S.’s interest, there is no guarantee that the U.S. will use their armed force to protect Japan should Japan and China have skirmishes over territory. And if this is the case, there would be no advantage of Japan to degrade its relationship with China. Instead, Japan’s security priority should be maintaining a good relationship with China. Japan, however, has not acted rationally as it has dealt with the territorial issues surrounding Senkaku-island.

The current territorial dispute over Senkaku-island was initially brought to an attention in April 2012 when the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, declared that Tokyo was going to purchase the island. Up until that point the territorial dispute had been “put up on a shelf” by an unofficial agreement of the leaders of both countries. They determined that it was more important to prioritize the mutual strategic cooperation rather than feud over territorial issues that would be never settled.

In the end, the Japanese government nationalized the island, which not only caused more friction with China but changed their giant neighbor into somewhat of an enemy. Since then, there have been no further diplomatic conversations between Beijing and Tokyo. These days, the Japanese government considers China as a serious threat to national and regional security and that is precisely why Abe wants to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance and lift the ban on right to exercise collective self-defense.

Abe’s decision on collective self-defense, however, is completely irrational. The practical approach of facing all the new challenges with an emerging China would have been to heal wounds and redevelop a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. Abe has done very little to control the damages and is about to exacerbate it.

Is Article 9 Japan’s path to security?

Of all the security measures a country can use to keep their country safe, a policy requiring a country exist as a pacifist nation, as described in Article 9, is a powerful one. Born out of atrocities, Article 9 is the only silver lining for Japan post WWII and unintentionally placed Japan in the unique position of being the only country in the world with the opportunity to stay out of wars on foreign soil. Beyond all the criticism associated with Article 9, it allows Japan to say “we cannot exercise the collective self-defense” and provides Japan an insulation from the potential of war.

Through the decades, Japan’s commitment upholding Article 9 has sent a message to the world that it is Japan’s policy to hold its pacifist ideology and settle conflicts through diplomacy and international law. The pacifist reputation that Japan has acquired as a nation by not engaging in war for nearly 70 years, is, without doubt, a strong asset. Choosing a path to maintain an international profile as a pacifist nation by keeping the original interpretation of Article 9 intact is strategically wise.

One may argue that it is too naïve to think that the ideology will defend you or that Japan’s interpretation of Article 9 is a convenient excuse for not sending Japanese troops into harm’s way.  And although true, the reality is that Japan still has SDF that is legal and has U.S.-Japan Treaty as a deterrent mechanism. In the end, SDF is a no different from any other military and posses sufficient personnel and sophisticated technologies capable of engraining in war.

In a complex world where there are a lot of moving parts, foreign policy in one part of the world has global impacts. With the failed effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world is now less stable than prior to those wars.  Exercising collective self-defense that further binds Japan to the U.S. may not necessarily make Japan safer when tie to a country with failed foreign policy could put a target on Japan. Do Japanese really want to sacrifice their young soldiers for what can potentially raise their own security risks?

With the national election around the corner, it is the time for Japanese citizen to choose their own destiny. If Japanese people do not want to repeat the past and keep their country away from dangers of politically motivated wars, they need to elect a leader who will defend Article 9 with the clear vision to keep Japan a pacifist nation. 

posted by Oceanlove at 18:46| 日本の政治 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Reinterpretation of Article 9 and Japan’s Security Destination 3

Understanding the U.S. Strategy for Asia-Pacific Region

The critical question that Japan must ask itself is, which path leads Japan to a safer place? Should Japan maintain an international profile as a pacifist nation by keeping the original interpretation of Article 9 intact or strengthen its tie with the U.S. by reinterpreting Article 9 and expanding military option.

Before answering to the question, Japan must assess the security environment in region and understand Japans position and how it interacts with all the moving pieces associated with the U.S. and China. Over the several decades of LDP control, the Japanese people have been led to believe the U.S. military must stay in Japan to protect Japan. Many Japanese are realizing this has been a myth.

It has been said that the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty is the foundation of the security in Asia-Pacific region. While this statement has a truth, Article 6 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty contains a “Status of Forces Agreement” that allows the U.S. to use military forces and facilities deployed in Japan for combat bases for military operations beyond the defense of Japan. U.S. military in Japan, in a bigger picture, is part of the U.S. strategy for the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, the questions really becomes, what is the U.S. strategy in this region?

Over the past several years, the Obama administration used the phrase “pivot to Asia” or “rebalancing” to describe their focus on Asia. Keeping Asia-Pacific region in order is critically important for the U.S. not only because Asia is the largest growing market but also because China’s political, economical, and military influence on Asia is seen as a threat to U.S. interests. The U.S. strategy includes the “containment” of China by strengthening the bonds with its allies throughout the region including Philippine, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan. Similar to Japan, some of these countries that have territorial issues with China seek stronger ties with the U.S. hoping the U.S.’s “deterrent mechanism” will keep them safe.

At the same time, the U.S. has been actively talking with China’s President, Xi Jinping. As the two major powers of the world, they are seeking ways to cooperate and share responsibilities rather than confrontation where no one will benefit. The outcome of the meeting of two leaders at Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held this past November in Beijing, was phenomenal. They agreed to work on together several global issues including the stabilization of economy, maintaining peace in Asia-Pacific Region, and establishing landmark policy to reduce anthropogenic impacts to the global environment.

There is no doubt, however, that the U.S. will continue to hold its alliances in the region tight to keep them from coming under China’s influence. It certainly is not the U.S.’s best interest for China to meddle with existing balance and order in the region. This makes the territorial disputes that some of those countries have with China to be a very convenient source of friction that fuels U.S.’s argument that its allies should remain cautious of China and hold tight as an ally. As academic discussions have coined this as “Off-Shore Balancing”, it is the U.S.’s underlying strategy to retain influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Off-Shore Balancing is the strategy that was described in the Obama administration’s 2012 New Defense Strategic Guidance , which was written as a response to the fact that the U.S. had experienced significant economic decline coupled with a major shift of world wealth and the power from the U.S. to Asia.  Off-shore Balancing is essentially a policy where the U.S. takes advantage of its Pacific allies to keep China in check without using its own resources. Through this policy the U.S. can shift military burden and resources away from the U.S. to its allies while the U.S. maintains its interests in the region and at the same time, avoids direct conflict with China.

Continue to read Irrational action will cost Japan

posted by Oceanlove at 18:34| 日本の政治 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする

Reinterpretation of Article 9 and Japan’s Security Destination 2

Abe’s reinterpretation of Article 9

Two decades after the cold war ended and China becomes a major political and military power of the world, the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region is quickly changing. China is showing its muscles in the East China Sea and South China Sea causing territorial disputes with its neighbors. North Korea that has a nuclear missile capability also plays a tricky role, making this region more unstable.

In recent years there has been a movement that pushed the agenda to lift the ban on exercising collective self-defense. This movement was led by the so called “political establishment of Japan” that consists of Abe’s LDP who has controlled most of post World War II Japanese politics, the bureaucrats (who are, for the most part, obedient to the U.S.), and the private sectors that are tied with LDP, including the mainstream medias that act like government billboards rather than that of watchdog. They claim that Japan needs to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance in order to enhance defense cooperation and increase the capacity to handle the regional threats or emergency scenario.

As eluded to, on July 1 2014, Abe’s cabinet decided to change the interpretation of Article 9 to end the ban on allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense.  It was a historic step to shift the nation from the one that does not use the military force on foreign soils to the one does in order to support its ally, even if Japan is not in threat.

What Abe has told the Japanese public is that ensuring a deterrent mechanism through a strong U.S.-Japan alliance is critically important and that Japan cannot afford to have the U.S.-Japan alliance fail in a crisis because overly stringent Japanese interpretations of minimal defense policy that could cause the SDF to withhold necessary military support at a critical juncture or in a crisis.

Exercising the right of collective self defense does not make Japan safer

While Abe’s political rhetoric may sound appealing, exercising collective self-defense could in fact have negative impacts that are actually contrary to what it intend to do for the reasons described herein. 

To start, the Japanese government claims that the conditions that apply to exercise the collective self-defense are very strict and that it is far-fetched to say that the SDF’s role will be fundamentally changed.   The conditions that the government refers to are:

  1. The situation should pose a clear threat to the Japanese state or could fundamentally threaten the Japanese people’s constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

  2. There is no other way to repel the attack and protect Japan and its people; and

  3. The use of force is limited to the minimum necessary.

The condition that “could fundamentally threaten the Japanese people’s constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” can be widely interpreted to cover a wide range of situations.  For example, one interpretation could stretch to a situation where Japan has no choice but participate in joint military operation with the U.S. even if Japan is not under direct attack for the sole reason that should Japan not cooperate with the U.S., the result would harm the U.S.-Japan relationship, which might not be the best interest of Japan.

In addition, the government’s claim does not thoroughly consider the scenario of what could happen after exercising a particular collective self-defense. Whether or not Japan applies those conditions is not merely a domestic matter but also impact policies throughout the region. Once it exercises collective self defense and use the force, it is an act of war. Once it started, the enemy would retaliate, which would lead to another attack. Thus, as it is often describe as do or die, there may be no stopping point and the words “minimum necessary” that is written in the condition would be meaningless. Who decides what is necessary when Japan exercises collective defense for the sake of an ally?

Another unintended impact of reinterpretation of Article 9 is that it will weaken the relationship with Asian nations, especially China and Korea. The “historical issues” in which Japan had victimized these countries during the war is Japan’s Achilles heel as both China and Korea use these issues as political tools to control diplomacies with Japan. The politically incorrect recollection of history by a contingent of Japanese politicians coupled with their insensitive comments have aggravated the feeling of average Chinese and Korean people toward Japan, resulting in anti-Japanese protests and serious trade disruptions. 

In past few years, the territorial disputes over Senkaku-island have farther jeopardized diplomatic relationship between Japan and China. Exercising collective self-defense will not only further harm the relationship with neighboring countries but also can increase the risk of accidental collisions in territorial water that might ultimately lead to the use of force.

Continue to read Understanding the U.S. Strategy for Asia-Pacific Region

posted by Oceanlove at 18:15| 日本の政治 | このブログの読者になる | 更新情報をチェックする