Japan and Security Cooperation In Asia


1. Introduction Japan was the first East Asian country to become an imperial power. However, its devastating defeat in the Second World War and subsequent occupation...

1. Introduction
Japan was the first East Asian country to become an imperial power. However, its devastating defeat in the Second World War and subsequent occupation by the United States (US) transformed Japan into a largely peaceful country. During the Cold War, it remained to be so. While it had an alliance with the US, its security cooperation with the US was very limited. The post-Cold War era, however, saw expansion in Japan’s military operations and development of power projection capabilities. It has strengthened its security ties with the US and also has newly developed cooperative security relations with other countries. This paper discusses Japan’s security policy, with particular focus on its stance on security cooperation in Asia.

2. During the Cold War

In 1946, Japan adopted a new Constitution that denied the possession of military forces and relinquished the right of belligerency. Following the Constitution, Japan refrained from developing power projection capabilities. In 1954, it established the Self Defense Forces (SDF) as exclusively defensive forces. During the Cold War, Japan remained peaceful and militarily very passive, although it became the second largest economy in the world. Mostly Japan abided by the war-renouncing Constitution and kept the policy of maintaining exclusively defensive posture. Its defense budget was kept under 1 percent of the GDP. During the Cold War, Japan did not dispatch the SDF overseas for military operations. South Korea, another Asian ally of the United States, sent about 400,000 soldiers to Vietnam to assist US military operations there. Yet, Japan sent no troops. In these ways, Japan made a valuable contribution to peace and security of Asia.
Japan maintained this kind of passive, exclusively defensive posture during the Cold War partly because it was not under serious security threat, partly because Washington did not strongly urge Tokyo to change its posture, and partly because the political Left still had significant presence in Japan’s domestic politics, which made it difficult for the conservative government led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to weaken constraints imposed by the Constitution on Japan’s military activities.
3. After the Cold War

However, Japan’s security posture changed significantly after the Cold War. Japan expanded the geographical scope of its military operations, dispatching the SDF overseas many times. It also began developing power projection capabilities.

1) Overseas Operations

The first overseas military operation of the SDF came in 1992 when Tokyo sent a mine-sweeping fleet to the Persian Gulf after the formal truce of the Gulf War had been established. That was followed by its dispatch to Cambodia to take part in the United Nations (UN) Peace Keeping Operation (PKO) in September 1992. Prior to that, Tokyo enacted a new law to allow the SDF to take part in UN PKOs in June 1992. Since then, the SDF participated in many UN PKOs.
After 2000, Japan became militarily more active. In 2001, Tokyo decided to dispatched warships of the Maritime SDF to the Indian Ocean to assist US-led war against Afghanistan. In 2003, it decided to send the Ground and Air SDFs to Iraq to help US-led military operations. Tokyo enacted two special laws to enable these operations. These were epoch-making developments because Japan had never directly involved in a war conducted by its ally. Effectively, Japan changed its interpretation of the Constitution that it prohibits the country from exercising the right of collective-self defense.

2) Military Buildups

While expanding the scope of its military operations, Japan also began developing power projection capabilities. It has acquired airplanes that can fry longer and carry more loads and warships that are bigger and can carry more loads. It has obtained airborne refueling aircrafts and helicopter carriers. Japan has justified these military buildups on the grounds that they would enable it to conduct “international peace cooperation activities,” such as PKOs, more effectively.
3) Contributing Factors
These changes were prompted by new external and internal developments: 1) the end of the Cold War and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union; 2) the decline in presence of the Left in the domestic politics; and 3) greater US demand for Japan’s military contribution to its military operations.
The end of the Cold War and the following demise of the Soviet Union deprived the Japan-US alliance of the primary raison d’etre and gave Japan the chance to review the alliance. Japan had the choice of reducing US military presence in Japan. However, Japan opted for maintaining the level of the presence and making greater military contribution to US military operations. It was partly because of Washington’s desire to maintain the presence level in Japan and its demand for Japan’s greater military contribution to its military operations such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was also partly because of the weakening of the Left and the strengthening of the Right, who had long advocated emancipating Japan from the Constitutional constraints on its military activities and making Japan a militarily normal country.

4) Response to North Korea’s Threat

In addition to the aforementioned changes, there were other significant developments in Japan’s security posture after the Cold War, which Tokyo justified as countermeasures to North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments. After North Korea’s rocket launch for putting a satellite into an orbit in August 1998, in December 1998 Tokyo decided to conduct joint research of a next generation ballistic missile defense (BMD) system with Washington. Then, in December 2004, Tokyo decided to move on to its joint development and to ease a long-held policy of banning weapons export so as to enable BMD-related exports to the US. Meanwhile, in December 2003, it also decided to deploy a current generation BMD system by purchasing PAC-3 missiles and SM-3 missiles from the US.
As another response to North Korea’s 1998 rocket, in December 1998 Tokyo decided to discard its long-held policy of prohibiting military use of space based on the Diet resolution of 1969 in order to deploy “Information Gathering Satellites (IGSs),” de facto spy satellites. Liberalization of military exports and deployment of spy satellites were welcomed by the business circle.

5) Response to China’s Threat

In recent years, China has replaced North Korea as Japan’s primary security concern. Tokyo has adopted a realist policy of balancing against China’s growing military power, primarily by strengthening its alliance with the US and secondarily by forging closer security ties with Australia, South Korea, and India. Japan and the US have been conducting trilateral military exercises with Australia and India.

4. Concluding Remarks

During the Cold War, “security cooperation” for Japan meant its alliance with the US. After the Cold War, Japan has continued to see the US as the primary partner for “security cooperation” but has become eager to develop cooperative ties with Australia, South Korea, and India. Thus, Japan’s “security cooperation” has expanded in terms of intensity and the number of partners. However, it is questionable whether this kind of security cooperation really contributes to the peace and prosperity of Japan and Asian region. Japan’s policy of militarily counterbalancing China through “military cooperation” with the U.S., Australia, South Korea, and India carries a serious risk of undermining its security by triggering spiral military competition with China, which Japan is unlikely to win, considering its serious weaknesses such as population decline and the resultant further economic decline.
To reduce the security threat posed by China, Japan needs to improve its relations with China since security threat consists of not only the military capabilities of the country but also the likelihood of its use of the capabilities. Since Japan is unlikely to win its arms race with China, the logical course of action is to forge better relations with the country. However, Tokyo has not made much effort to do so.
Moreover, it is highly questionable that the Japanese government is trying to maximize the security and well-being of the Japanese people, that is, their human security. Instead, it seems that the Government has tried to maximize the interest of those who benefit from tension with China as well as North Korea, such as the defense industry of Japan and the US. Improvement in Japan’s relations with China as well as North Korea could bring more benefit to the human security, not only of the Japanese, but also of the Chinese, the North Koreans, and other peoples in Asia and beyond, because that is likely to lead to a new level of peace and prosperity in East Asia and beyond.
All the countries should give precedence to security cooperation that advances human security of people, not the security cooperation to balance against the military power of a particularly country. As a technologically advanced country, Japan could play a very importance role in this kind of security cooperation. It could actively conduct technological cooperation with other Asian countries, helping them improve their standards of living and quality of life. In this respect, Japan should utilize its technology to develop and spread alternative methods of power generation that are safe and sustainable. It should stop nuclear power generation on its soil and refrain from exporting nuclear power plants to other Asian countries for its own economic gain.
Nuclear technology is a double-edged sword. It can be used for both peaceful and military purposes. Therefore, the spread of nuclear technology through the export of nuclear power plants entails the risk of increasing the number of countries with nuclear weapons. Considering that, the policy of exporting nuclear power plants runs counter to the international effort to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Furthermore, we need to clearly recognize the ongoing and potential damage to public health inflicted by the “peaceful” use of nuclear technology in the form of nuclear power generation. In reality, nuclear power generation is not really “peaceful.” Nuclear power plants constantly emit radiation into the environment, thereby threatening the health of people, particularly those who live nearby. The threat to the health of the workers at nuclear power plants is even greater. Also, the potential risk to people’s well-being is very large because devastating accidents could happen, as the cases in Chernobyl and Fukushima vividly show. In addition, it is unethical and irresponsible to pursue nuclear power generation because it produces radioactive wastes that can remain poisonous for tens of thousands of years and thus jeopardize the human security of many generations to come.
Developing safe and sustainable methods of power generation is an urgent issue for Asia and the world as a whole. Japan should lead international cooperation in this respect. This is the kind of security cooperation that Japan should pursue earnestly.
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Africa 65 135
Asia 75 207
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Islamic World 51 143
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