Japan’s Decision on Collective Self-Defense in Context

Official U.S. Navy Page via Flickr.com

Official U.S. Navy Page via Flickr.com

This article was brought to my attention by a Disinfonaut via the Contact Page.

via The Diplomat:

On July 1, Japan passed a Cabinet decision that fundamentally changes the interpretation of war-renouncing Article 9 of its Constitution to allow the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

Claimed to be part of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s doctrine of “pro-active pacifism,” the move stems from a correlation between Japan’s rising nationalism on the one hand, and joint U.S.-Japan efforts to strengthen their security cooperation on the other, as Washington and Tokyo are renegotiating their defense guidelines for the first time since 1997. The revised guidelines are due by year-end, with an interim report slated to be released next week.

Proponents say the Cabinet decision provides only for a “limited” expansion of Japan’s military capability overseas and allows for a strengthened U.S.-Japan cooperation that will make the Asia Pacific region more secure. Abe even claims that “there are no changes in today’s Cabinet Decision from the basic way of thinking on the constitutional interpretation to date.” But is this really so?


The Cabinet decision lifts Japan’s restrictions on the use of force overseas. It now allows the country to militarily help a “foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan,” on the condition that the attack “threatens Japan’s survival and poses a clear danger to fundamentally overturn (Japanese) people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The use of force should also be limited to “the minimum extent necessary”

Vaguely worded, the language of the decision leaves much room for interpretation to determine if and when these criteria are met. For example, Abe claims that taking part in minesweeping operations in the Hormuz Strait would now be allowed, given the fact that more than 80 percent of Japan’s oil transits through the Strait and an oil shortage would fundamentally threaten the nation. Coalition partner Komeito, however, opposes this scenario and insists that the new conditions only authorize Japan to use force if an emergency occurs in and around Japan. Hence, although the decision is the outcome of a political compromise, there is still no consensus on how to apply the criteria.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel welcomed the decision as “bold and historic,” for it allows Japan to “engage in a wider range of operations.” In Japan, many fear it may drag the country into foreign wars in the name of collective defense – a concern deemed “overblown” by those trying to appease. Nonetheless, the question remains as to whether Tokyo could realistically decline a request by Washington. The reverse question may also be posed, as the U.S. could end up drawn into military confrontation in East Asia.

The U.S. has long invited Japan to become a “full partner” in the alliance, by lifting constraints set by Article 9. Since the 1996 Clinton-Hashimoto Declaration that expanded the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to the whole Asia-Pacific region, the two governments have gradually and consistently broadened the scope of their security cooperation, geographically as well as in terms of roles, missions and contingency plans. Yet, the self-imposed ban on collective self-defense was seen as maintaining Japan’s military in an exclusively “defensive” role and limiting overseas missions to “non-combatant” functions. The Cabinet decision now crosses the Rubicon and paves the way to a greater military posture by Japan.

Taking Orders From Washington?

Tokyo’s arguments in support of lifting the ban on collective self-defense have been strikingly similar to the calls of “Japan handlers” in Washington. For instance, the 2012 CSIS report by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council Joseph Nye qualified Article 9’s restrictions as “anachronistic constraints” that should “be eased.” It also stated that the “prohibition of the collective self-defense [was] an impediment to the alliance” and specifically called for Japan’s “increased participation in multinational efforts to combat piracy, protect Persian Gulf shipping, confront threats to regional peace, such as those currently posed by Iran’s nuclear program, and secure sea-lanes.” These were the very cases put forward by Abe to persuade Diet members and the public that reinterpreting the Constitution was necessary.

Continue reading.

2 Comments on "Japan’s Decision on Collective Self-Defense in Context"

  1. BuzzCoastin | Oct 3, 2014 at 3:09 pm |

    Japan is a US colony
    it does exactly what Uncle Homeland tells it to do
    nothing more or less
    considering that Japan terrorized most of Asia for a century
    till Uncle Homeland nuced them
    rearming them for foreign fighting now
    seems foolhardy at best
    a primary motivation for this Homeland puppet dance
    is to boost profits for the Homeland military contractors
    and tweek China
    holder of 1 trillion in US debt

  2. Context? What context? You forgot to mention the 230% debt to GDP the country is foundering from, the social security system slowly crumbling under the weight of all the old people, and the hollowed out rural areas and dilapidated farming infrastructure. All of this spells serious domestic problems if Japan decides to get into any war. This isn’t even to mention that the crown jewel of Abe’s economic recovery strategy is to turn Japan into a giant tourist destination.

    War was hell for Japanese society, and the Imperial Army made it hell for other societies around the region. This is all in living memory. US militarism is of an entirely different character than Japanese militarism–Japanese society has grown entirely intolerant of war over the decades, and will not tolerate another war, despite what the psychopath militaristic government aims to do. The domestic situation would fall irrevocably apart if the government brought the country to war. Food shortages, oil shortages….the current opulent lifestyle of Tokyo and Osaka would shrivel to nothing. People are prepared to allow that. Geopolitics will be subsumed under domestic societal pressures.

Comments are closed.