Japan’s National Defense Planning for a New Security Environment
Author: Ken Jimbo Published: 2012-05-31
Japan’s National Defense Planning for a New Security Environment
National Defense Program Guidelines 2010
Associate Professor, Keio University
I. Making of National Defense Program Guideline under the DPJ
The National Defense Program Guideline (hereafter NDPG), the primary document in Japan’s defense policy, determines the basic guidelines for the defense force planning, roles and operations of the Self Defense Force (SDF), and the target levels of major defense equipment to be built up. At the same time, NDPG is a document outlining the basic principles and policies of Japan’s national security strategy. In comparison to the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) issued respectively by the U.S. White House and the Department of Defense, Japan’s NDPG is a document approved by the Security Council and the Cabinet that contains both security and defense strategy.
The latest NDPG was released on December 17, 2010 as the first NDPG to be formulated under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The DPJ attained a historical landslide victory in the elections of the House of Representatives in August 2009. The victory by the DPJ has brought about the end of more than half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The results of the 2009 general election had the potential to represent a new regime (the DPJ) that would replace the core patterns of public policy and policymaking processes of the LDP’s ancient regime.
A former NDPG, released in December 2004, contained a clause that aimed to “…revise the Guidelines in light of the security environment and technological trends and other relevant factors…” within 5 years. With this background, the LDP administration (from 2007-2009) initiated the reexamination of the NDPG in various branches of the government. In August 2009, the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, an expert security council commissioned by the Taro Aso administration, submitted the Council on Defense Capability and Security Report (Katsumata Report), which was expected to provide the basic tones of the defense review.
However, after the DPJ became the ruling party in September 2009, the Hatoyama administration decided to postpone the project for a year in order to formalize the new NDPG and Mid-Term Defense Program and adjust defense policies and doctrines under the DPJ administration. The DPJ has re-commissioned the experts’ group, the Council on Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era, with new members who, at least by DPJ leaders’ standards, represent Japan’s liberal internationalists’ views on defense and security policy.
Soon after its inauguration, the DPJ was facing serious difficulties on diplomacy and national security policy issues. The DPJ’s foreign policy platform was founded upon opportunistic agreements among DPJ members, and later coalition partners. They based this platform on their criticisms of the LDP’s policies, especially those of PM Junichiro Koizumi. During the campaign, the DPJ declared that they would “aim for reexamination of the status of the bases of the U.S. Forces in Japan.” The focal point of the discussion was to deny the LDP’s base relocation plan of Futenma Marine Air base to Camp Schwab (in Henoko, northern part of mainland Okinawa), and to seek an alternative place of relocation outside of Okinawa Prefecture, or preferably outside of Japan. However, a series of alternative relocation plans proposed by the Hatoyama administration found no practical results. When the Hatoyama administration admitted the backfiring of their alternative plans and reaffirmed the LDP’s basic agreement at the joint statement on the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (2+2) on May 28, 2010, the opportunistic coalition with the Social Democratic Party was broken.
The new council report, Japan’s Visions for Future Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era: Toward a Peace‐Creating Nation, was submitted on August 27, 2010 to the Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who succeeded Hatoyama in early June. The report declared Japan to be a “peace-creating” nation and emphasized the need to actively support the liberal international order. While this view of security is based on liberal internationalism, if Japan wants to be actively involved in conflict prevention and peacekeeping, they must overcome the domestic legal and institutional constraints. In this context, the report called for the departure from the Exclusively Defense Oriented Defense Policy (Senshu Boei), establishing the basic law for international peace cooperation, amending the Three Principles on Arms Exports and authorizing the exercising of collective self-defense. The report came as a surprise to domestic audiences in that although the report was based on a liberal internationalist background, the practical agendas for defense policy review shared a lot in common with the previous review under the LDP.
Prime Minister Kan’s initial response to the report was non-enthusiastic. He simply responded that the report was “one of the references” and was cautious about directly linking the report to the NDPG draft. This cautious response from Kan, derived from the view that their sets of recommendations went beyond even the report under the LDP, proved that it might be difficult to reach a consensus among the liberal faction of DPJ Diet members. It would additionally be a challenge to gain further support from the Social Democratic Party in the Upper House.
As an alternative, Prime Minister Kan asked the Security Council to accelerate the review process of the NDPG, and to have it completed by the end of 2010. Accordingly, the administration launched the Four-Minister’s Meeting among the Chief Cabinet Secretary, the Ministers of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Finance to coordinate a review of defense policy. As a parallel process, the DPJ’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security (chaired by Masaharu Nakagawa) initiated the discussion on the NDPG to gather a consensus among DPJ Diet members. The administration combined these two processes into nine rounds of discussion at the Security Council, and then the NDPG was finally released on December 17. The NDPG formulation process was one of a few successful cases for Politician-led Politics (Seijisyudo:政治主導) with which the DPJ’s prescribed leadership model was associated.
II. New Concept in the New National Defense Program Guidelines
Assessment of Security Environment
The new NDPG incorporated new concepts, which reflect changes in the security environment since the settlement of the former Guidelines. First, the new NDPG pointed out that although the probability of large-scale war between major countries is decreasing, “there are a growing number of so-called ‘gray-zone’ disputes—confrontations over territory, sovereignty and economic interests that are not to escalate into wars.” This recognition and assessment of the “gray zones” is more complicated than simply estimating the structure of military strength or estimating the threat and risk involved, which are mainly based on changing distributions of power. For example, the burden of cost and time for peace keeping is increasing exponentially to levels greater than in previous military interventions like Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and the Iraq war. The NDPG grasps the concept that the “high-end” areas of war and “low-end” areas (those that work on peacekeeping, peace building and other functional cooperation) should be treated as equal in security policy. In the new NDPG, certain “complex contingencies” (several contingencies that could happen simultaneously) are conceptualized concerning the security environment surrounding Japan, and especially concerning North Korea and the relationship with China. After all, this “gray-zone” view is the guiding base for direction like preparation to integrate Self-Defense Forces and “seamless response.”
Second, the NDPG recognizes growing instability in the Asia-Pacific region. It mentions an explicit threat perception against North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, missile development and provocative military actions that “constitute an immediate and grave destabilizing factor to regional security.” As for China, although the Guidelines mentioned it “is beginning to play an important role for regional and global security,” they also state concerns on China’s increasing military expenditures, modernizing capability for extended-range of power projection, and maritime activities in the surrounding waters of Japan.
The Guidelines were also aware of “a global shift in the balance of power” due to “the relative change of influence of the United States,” and the rise of emerging nations such as China, India and Russia who have increased their power and influence in the international security domain. The recognition of these facts will help bring to fruition the desired cooperation with partner countries like South Korea, Australia, India and ASEAN while still placing emphasis on the alliance with the U.S.
Security Principle and Objectives
In recognition of these facts of the new security environment, the new NDPG has formulated Japan’s security objectives as follows: 1) to prevent any threat from directly reaching Japan and to eliminate external threats…thereby securing the peace and stability of Japan, 2) to prevent threats from emerging by further stabilizing the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region and by improving the global security environment, and 3) to contribute to creating global peace, stability, and to secure human security.
In comparing these new Guidelines to the former Guidelines, it is worth mentioning that that the statement, “stabilizing the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region and improving the global security environment” creates a security objective that focuses far more on the regional area, and includes what is called the “fresh water international contribution” view that allows them to “contribute to creating global peace, stability, and to secure human security”. The NDPG also states that it will promote a multi-layered approach to integrate 1) Japan’s own effort, 2) cooperation with its allies, 3) cooperation with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and 4) cooperation with the international community, as options for maintaining security.
The Guidelines specifically state the necessary cooperation in the “Asia-Pacific region”, emphasizing the significance of creating bilateral and multilateral security cooperation in a multi-layered manner by progressing security cooperation within a region. This regional cooperation is mentioned to a) strengthen cooperation between U.S. allies and partner countries (especially South Korea and Australia), b) enhance security cooperation with ASEAN countries especially in the non-traditional security field, c) enhance cooperation with India and other countries in ensuring the security of maritime navigation, d) promote confidence with China and Russia through security dialogues and exchanges, and establish and develop a cooperative relationship with them in areas including non-traditional security fields, and e) establish a practical cooperative relationship through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defense Minister’s Meeting Plus (ADMN Plus). This kind of regional security architecture that organically combines regional cooperation on many different levels is intended.
The later statement, “creating global peace, stability, and to secure human security” also has important implications. Japan’s currently has about 266 troops available to send to International Peace Cooperation Activities, and this number will be reduced to about 40 after rescue missions in Haiti are terminated. Although various PKO missions are currently deployed across the world, Japan’s human contribution is the lowest among the developed countries. On the peace building process in Afghanistan, Japan has not been able to send Self-Defense Forces mainly because of legal constraints. The Guidelines have created an ambitious goal for Japan to be more actively involved in International Peace Cooperation Activities and the peace building process in the international community.
Dynamic Deterrence and Dynamic Defense Force
A new concept called “Dynamic Defense” appears in the new Guidelines. It aims to break away from the traditional “Basic Defense Force Concept” that was formularized in the 1970’s, “to secure minimum requirement for defense from avoiding Japan to become blank of power and become a destabilizing factor in Japan’s surrounding region”. In the era in which the East and the West were constantly at odds, Japan built a “Static” Defense that aimed to keep Self-Defense Forces at home, and to deal with a small scale and limited invasion. However, in the present security environment, crossing over geographic boundaries and cooperating with various countries is the norm. Self-Defense Forces must now flexibly correspond to “various contingencies” against Japan, cooperate with allies in situations in areas surrounding Japan, and participate in International Peace Cooperation Activities and large-scale disaster relief. Against this background, it is it is important develop “not only so-called ‘static deterrence’ that ensures deterrence through the existence of defense forces per se, but also so-called ‘dynamic deterrence’ that ensures deterrence by showing Japan’s will and high-performance defense capabilities through timely and appropriate conduct of various activities. (Defense Minister’s statement).”
“Dynamic Defense” is not truly a new concept. The former Guidelines in 2004 advocated for defense prepared with quick responses to act on characteristic situations, and high mobility to “be capable of effectively responding to new threats and diverse situations” and “voluntarily and actively participate in International Peace Cooperation Activities.” The new direction of “Dynamic Defense” is merely following as an extension of the former Guidelines’ stipulations. However, “Dynamic Defense” in the new Guidelines has underscored the importance of the Self-Defense Forces’ operations and activities, particularly to 1) strengthen preparation against military activities of neighboring countries through reinforcing regular intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities (ISR), 2) quickly and seamlessly respond to various contingencies, and 3) promote multi-layered cooperative activities with foreign countries.
To undertake these activities dynamically, we need to “drastically rationalize and streamline the Self-Defense Forces overall through fundamentally reviewing the equipment, personnel, organization and force disposition, including the equipment and personnel that have been maintained as preparation to defend against a full-scale invasion.” In other words, we must reduce the Ground Self-Defense Force personnel, decrease current numbers of tanks, howitzers and rockets, increase current numbers of destroyers and submarines, acquire new patrol aircraft, and renovate major units that are showed in the new Guidelines’ attached table and Mid-Term Defense Program.
Preparing for Southwestern Defense
Another security element illuminated in the new Guidelines is reinforcing defense preparation on the southwestern regions of Japan. Proliferation of instability in the southwestern regions could be characterized as a structural shift caused by China’s military rise, especially in terms of its sea and air power. Therefore, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the new Guidelines developed the policy from 16 separate Guidelines that put priority on “Dynamic Defense” and “military balance in peace time.” In addition, defense of the southwestern regions have the composite meanings of 1) securing Japan’s numerous islands’ defense and maritime interests [Japan], 2) maintaining the U.S.’s front line presence in the Western Pacific Ocean [U.S.], and 3) securing Western Pacific countries’ freedom of navigation [surrounding countries]. Reinforcing defense on the southwestern regions not only helps to defend Japan, but also corresponds with U.S. and regional countries’ interests.
Threats on the southwestern regions could be classified as 1) low intensity: violation of maritime interests by intrusion of fishing boats and marine observation vessels, 2) medium/high intensity: destruction of bases (U.S. Forces and Self Defense Forces) and logistics infrastructure (ballistic/cruise missiles, special forces, and cyber attack), or the attack and invasion of Japan’s numerous islands regions. The new Guidelines’ design could take the initiative to 1) manage Japan’s own “Dynamic Defense,” and 2) maintain and reinforce joint action with U.S. and U.S.’s extended deterrence.
Agenda for Japan’s Future Defense Planning
The new direction of the Guidelines is comprehensive and strategic in terms of corresponding to the “gray-zones” of conflict and “complex contingencies” with the assumption that the global balance of power is shifting. However, all strategies in the new Guidelines require constant review based on the changes in the world of international affairs. There are many checklists that already exist on executing the new Guidelines. These checklists include whether “Dynamic Defense” is able to respond to the dynamics of power shifts in neighboring countries, whether budgets, personnel, and organizations are well guaranteed, whether cross border and “seamless” cooperation with each organization are executable, and whether Japan-U.S. cooperation is able to work effectively. Within these areas, there are two subjects that the author wants to expressly adopt.
First, it is necessary to execute the document that assumed to “establish a body in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence which will be responsible for national security policy coordination among relevant ministers and for providing advice to the Prime Minister.” There have already been discussions regarding the creation of a Japanese National Security Council (NSC) in the Abe administration when the LDP was the ruling party. This legislation needs to be readdressed, and it will have to execute the comprehensive adjustment of security policy, reinforcing the requirement that the Prime Minister’s office responds promptly and accurately in times of crisis, and establishing organizations that take charge on settling mid-long term security strategies.
Secondly, we must review “the Three Principles on Arms Exports” which was shelved in the final step of settling the new Guidelines. The DPJ’s Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security also proposed the easing of “the Three Principles on Arms Exports” despite disagreement among DPJ members. However, in the end there were no new plans for “the Three Principles on Arms Exports” in the new Guidelines nor were there comments from the Chief Cabinet Secretary. The participation of the Japanese defense industry in international joint development and production related to advanced equipment is decisively important in providing high-efficiency equipment, reducing costs, and easing procurement. Japan is currently required to show explicit decisions on easing NATO’s security policy and Japan-NATO cooperation in the prospective adoption of SM-3 Block IIA, which Japan and the U.S. have been jointly developing, and are planned to be used in NATO’s Missile Defense System. Furthermore, many developing countries are keen to procure equipment such as that used for maritime patrol, surveillance capacity, and peacekeeping operations. Japan needs to review the “Three Principles on Arms Exports” to be able to assist in the capacity building of these countries.
 The Security Council of Japan and the Cabinet “National Defense Program Guidelines for JFY 2011 and Beyond” http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_act/d_policy/pdf/guidelinesFY2011.pdf
 T.J Pempel, “Between Pork and Productivity: The Collapse of the Liberal Democratic Party”, The Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol.36, No.2 (Summer 2010) pp.227-254
 The Security Council of Japan and the Cabinet “National Defense Program Guidelines FY2005-” http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_act/d_policy/pdf/national_guidelines.pdf
 The Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, “The Council on Security and Defense Capabilities Report” (August 2009) http://www.kantei.go.jp/jp/singi/ampobouei2/090928houkoku_e.pdf
 Defense Minister’s Statement on the Approval of the “National Defense Program Guidelines for FY2011 and beyond” and the “Mid-Term Defense Program (FY2011– FY2015)” (December 17, 2010)