The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research


The Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research

Putting the National Defense Program Guidelines into Practice: Five Proposals from the Tokyo Foundation

September 14, 2011

The National Defense Program Guidelines adopted in December 2010 spell out various innovations and advocate the strengthening of Japan’s security posture. Inasmuch as the guidelines express medium- to long-term ideas and the direction that the nation ought to pursue, their implementation requires a process of formulating concrete Mid-Term Defense Program projects for each fiscal year and drafting or improving relevant laws and regulations and developing new policy guidelines.

Failure to formulate concrete measures will mean that the ideas presented in the new Guidelines will be for naught. Members of the Tokyo Foundation’s National Security Policy Project engaged in repeated discussions concerning the measures urgently required for the implementation of the Guidelines.

As a result of these deliberations, the project team identified five most important policy areas: (1) strengthening the government’s crisis management structure, (2) maintaining and strengthening the Japan-US alliance, (3) enhancing security cooperation and international peace cooperation activities in the Asia-Pacific region, (4) developing a dynamic defense force, and (5) implementing a new arms export control policy.

Proposal 1: Strengthen the government’s crisis management structure

(1) A framework to enable more effective crisis management

Describing the government’s role in a crisis, the Guidelines state, “In the event of various contingencies, it will seamlessly deal with the situation as it unfolds.” For this to happen, the security and crisis management capabilities of the government, particularly the cabinet, must be strengthened.

The creation of a framework for seamless task planning and leadership from a unified perspective is vital. This will work only if the lines separating different ministries and agencies—including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, National Police Agency, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry—are transcended. Over the short term, conceivable countermeasures in the event of a crisis could include temporarily putting in place, at the cabinet-secretary or deputy-chief-cabinet-secretary level or higher, a structure to perform the functions of consolidating information, communicating the intentions of the government to pertinent organizations, and coordinating the activities of different entities.

Over the medium term, an advisory committee should be established under the prime minister to design a structure charged with national crisis management. Along with examining the overall concept for such a structure, this committee can also identify measures for its establishment as an institution.

Specifically, a panel of experts in the areas of security and crisis management should be established as staff for top government leaders. This structure would be headed by the chief cabinet secretary or a newly appointed parliamentary deputy chief cabinet secretary (a longstanding member of the House of Councillors would be one idea).

This panel would undertake the formulation of Japan’s medium- to long-term national defense strategy and integrated security strategy and also regularly consider the government’s response to an array of crisis scenarios. In the event of an actual crisis, this panel would not become involved in actual operations but would make an overall assessment of the government-wide response and provide response guidance from a longer-term perspective.

(2) Strengthening information security as a prerequisite for enhanced intelligence functions

Strengthening information security systems is fundamental to the nation’s overall collection and analysis of information as well as its utilization. It is also important in terms of the Japan-US alliance, for it can lead to more appropriate decision-making by Japan through effective utilization of information provided by the United States, a country with excellent intelligence capabilities.

The sharing of information possessed by different government agencies is predicated upon individual agencies trusting the information security systems of the other agencies to which they provide information on a reciprocal basis. Information security systems are also crucial in the context of information sharing between the administrative and legislative branches of government. Along with clarifying Diet members’ obligation of confidentiality, the Diet should hold closed sessions so that members can engage in debate based on privileged information.

Furthermore, the establishment of a permanent information committee would also be required in the legislative branch to ensure that policy pertaining to information and information security for Japan as a whole is properly followed.

In making a response extending across government ministries and agencies, it must be made clear where responsibility lies. This will involve, for example, the establishment under the deputy chief cabinet secretary of a project team that will quickly sort out different aspects of the response, including government-wide efforts, matters to be addressed separately by each ministry and agency, legislative action, administrative measures, and operations to ensure that everyone involved is equipped with the hardware and software needed to share information and keep it secure.

In addition, the responsibility for the measures to be taken must be clarified, and prompt action to implement them should follow.

(3) Reinforcement of awareness concerning communications preparedness

One point that became clear in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake was the vulnerability of the communications infrastructure. The destruction of the cell phone infrastructure had an enormous impact on the victims and made it difficult for information to be shared among and instructions and requests to be communicated to different organizations: the national government, local disaster headquarters, relief agencies, and municipalities hit by the disaster.

Given that damage to the communications infrastructure can be foreseen in the event of a large-scale disaster or armed attack, Japan should make provisions to supplement it through channels that include the utilization of a disaster radio network, emergency restoration of contact through communication satellites, and network reinforcement based on mobile communication terminals.

Consideration should also be given to utilizing the tactical network communication system created by the Self-Defense Forces. With regard to a potential inland earthquake centered on Tokyo or major quakes in the Tokai and Tonankai regions, in particular, special attention should be given to the government’s communications functions, since they would presumably cause widespread damage.

To ensure the gathering of information required for decision-making by top government officials and for guiding and supervising the agencies involved, the government should back up its communications network or else be prepared to reconfigure the communications infrastructure on a temporary basis.

Additionally, consideration should be given in advance to such countermeasures as the temporary relocation of government offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, should the need arise, and the conducting of drills for such a scenario.

Proposal 2: Continue efforts to maintain and strengthen the Japan-US alliance

If the international community recognizes the strength of the Japan-US alliance, this can significantly help deter aggression. The way that the United States demonstrated its willingness to cooperate generously in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake should be seen as a golden opportunity. The question of whether or not Japan can continue working closely with the United States in post-quake recovery and reconstruction, including efforts to come to grips with the nuclear accident, and regain the confidence of the international community is crucial for the future of the bilateral alliance.

Of foremost importance is the broad sharing of the recognition that the realignment of US forces on Okinawa, including the relocation of Futenma air station to the Henoko area, would help ease the burden on Okinawa. At the same time, a bold vision for the future of Okinawa’s society and economy should be mapped out, including plans to utilize bases south of Kadena after they have been relocated.

The situation surrounding Japan, such as issues involving the Korean Peninsula, is unpredictable, and consideration for so-called traditional military security must be kept in place. Likewise, as far as the Japan-US alliance is concerned, Japan should carry out more in-depth discussions concerning common strategic objectives from the standpoint of Japan’s own surroundings. Pressing on with measures related to joint operational plan formulation and joint exercises would also be critical.

Proposal 3: Work actively to promote security cooperation and enhance international peace cooperation activities in the Asia-Pacific region with the aim of becoming a peace-building nation

One predominant feature of the Guidelines is the emphasis given to bilateral and multilateral security cooperation. In particular, the Guidelines cite further stabilization of the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region as an objective of Japan’s security for the first time and also advocate that Japan work toward regional security.

The March 11 disaster shook the Japanese people out of their inward-looking tendency, which had become pervasive since the Lost Decade of the early 1990s. When the Japanese people saw how nations around the world—like their ally the United States and neighbors such as China and South Korea—reached out to lend a hand, they were reminded of their membership in the international community.

This show of support also demonstrated the world’s expectations of Japan, which even after being hit by the earthquake and tsunami remains a global power with the world’s third-largest economy. Japan should contribute to the global economy through its own recovery and sincerely respond to the outpouring of support from various countries.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan indicated that while a temporary drop in Japan’s official development assistance is unavoidable, the nation should contribute to the world by substantially increasing its ODA once it has recovered. Urgent action is also required, though, in order to solidify Japan’s presence in the international community and ensure it has a voice.

Japan should move quickly to contribute actively to the international community through not just ODA but also such other ways as the provision of personnel for international peace activities and international disaster relief work, balancing these efforts with its own recovery process.

Although previous Guidelines identified Japan’s defense and international contribution objectives, they had not referred to regional security. The Asia-Pacific security environment has worsened in the two decades since the end of the Cold War, and this is not unrelated to Japan’s passive posture regarding regional security.

In this light, the nation should more actively work toward the region’s stabilization. Japan should cultivate broad recognition that promoting defense exchange and regional cooperation in tandem with strengthening its own defense capabilities constitutes an important dual-track policy for the nation’s security and defense. These activities should be supported through adequate budgetary allocations.

As a major regional power, Japan should take the lead in instituting frameworks for bilateral and multilateral defense cooperation and in creating a structure for multilayered cooperation. Specifically, Japan should reinforce the Japan-US alliance and coordination with the ASEAN Regional Forum and promote regional network formation by strengthening Japan–South Korea and Japan-Australia coordination.

Along with the advancement of bilateral defense exchange, efforts are also needed to promote the institutionalization of trilateral and multilateral cooperative frameworks—including Japan-US-South Korea, Japan-US-Australia, and Japan-US-China relations—and to be involved in regional rule creation.

While coordinating its activities with other countries in the region, Japan should also actively support capacity building in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. When it participates in international cooperation activities outside the region, Japan’s involvement should be based on its own regional strategy, such as by attaching importance to strengthening cooperation with other countries in the region as it undertakes such activities.

There is an increasing need for development assistance to destitute areas of the world that are potential breeding grounds for international terrorism, piracy, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and pandemics, as well as for underlying activities to maintain security. The international community has high expectations with regard to Japan’s active involvement in these endeavors.

There are also rising expectations of the military’s role in international disaster relief. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the SDF assigned more than 100,000 troops—a figure close to half the total number of defense personnel—to engage in rescue and other assistance activities in disaster-stricken areas and at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The US armed forces supported the SDF activities by launching Operation Tomodachi, dispatching as many as 24,000 troops and deploying two dozen ships, including an aircraft carrier, and approximately 190 military aircraft. These activities by Japan and the United States have shown the people of Japan, who have been wary of nonmilitary uses of military forces, that the military has an essential role to play in international disaster relief.

Contributing to international peace is already an intrinsic role of the SDF. In order to step up SDF activities in this area, the Japanese government should not wait until the completion of recovery from the disaster but secure the necessary budgetary and human resources to the maximum extent possible.

Proposal 4: Implement the following measures in aiming for a more dynamic defense force

(1) Strengthen the emergency deployment capabilities (hubs and mobility capabilities) of the defense force

Important factors in building a dynamic defense force are putting in place advance military posts and bases that can serve as hubs for military unit deployment and having the ability to quickly establish necessary hubs. On that basis, the defense force needs to have air and marine transport capacity for moving troops and supplies as well as the ability to gain air and sea supremacy in order to make such transport possible.

The SDF concentrated 106,000 troops in the Tohoku district in response to the March disaster, which was made possible by the existing network of posts and bases located in the vicinity of disaster-stricken areas. Ground Self-Defense Force posts in Iwate, Sendai, Fukushima, and Koriyama, as well as bases of the Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces in such locations as Hachinohe and Matsushima became hubs for the activities of military units. Along with providing accommodations for troops that converged from around the country, these SDF installations further functioned as logistics hubs for military units working on the front lines of disaster relief.

Meanwhile, the US forces utilized ships belonging to the US Seventh Fleet as a support base and assisted SDF troops assigned to rescue work by acting quickly to re-open Sendai Airport, where operations had been paralyzed by the disaster, so that it could be used as a logistics hub. US forces first restored 1,500 meters of runway—the minimum length required for C-130 transport planes to land. After that it used C-130s to bring in heavy equipment and restored the minimum functions for the airport to operate as an air base, including a 3,000-meter runway.

On top of that, approximately 260 support troops needed to perform air traffic control and transport hub operations were deployed. In this way the US forces transformed Sendai Airport into an air transport base for supplying emergency provisions to afflicted areas and providing supplies to US troops.

At present, emergency deployment capabilities for offshore islands—including those in southwestern Japan where SDF installations are sparse—need attention. Military posts and bases capable of serving as hubs in the event of an emergency should be put into place. The SDF needs to follow the US example in Sendai and equip itself with the ability to set up and operate hubs in areas with inadequate infrastructure.

(2) Case studies of complex contingencies

The new Guidelines call for preparations against complex contingencies involving the consecutive or simultaneous unfolding of situations. The responses specified by the Guidelines include (1) ensuring the security of Japan’s airspace or surrounding waters, (2) responding to attacks on offshore islands, (3) responding to cyber attacks, (4) responding to assaults by guerrillas or special operations forces, and (5) responding to ballistic missile attacks.

Undertaking case studies for dealing with such complex contingencies will be quite helpful in terms of contingency preparedness. This is because case studies premised on worst-case scenarios will involve giving advance consideration to how the SDF and relevant authorities should respond in a crisis and the manner in which they should cooperate.

This will also make it possible to clarify the anticipated capacity levels of each institution (or capacity limitations and problem areas that need to be improved) and to obtain a basis for formulating concrete response plans and an idea of the anticipated damage (as well as the tolerable degree of damage). Preparing countermeasures in advance of a crisis will enable expeditious decision-making, so the response itself will be quicker. This would therefore be conducive to achieving a more dynamic defense force.

Giving consideration to a crisis scenario involving the Korean Peninsula would be worthwhile, for instance. A war between North and South Korea could conceivably be reignited should the Korean War Armistice Agreement be violated. A form of civil unrest could also flare up in North Korea, or may even occur at the same time as a war. In such a situation, a flood of refugees from the Korean Peninsula could wash up along Japanese shores via the Sea of Japan.

Many Japanese nationals in South Korea would then need to be rescued. At the same time, support for US operations would have to be carried out for such a “situation in areas surrounding Japan.” There would be a need as well to ensure a state of readiness for missile attacks, terrorist assaults by special operations forces, and cyber attacks.

Should such a situation develop, Japan would need to orchestrate its own response. Specifically, while communicating with neighboring countries, Japan must keep abreast of all activities on the domestic front—such as those of relevant agencies, the SDF, and the Japan Coast Guard—and manage information appropriately, make swift decisions, issue commands, and ensure that orders reach where they are needed.

Necessary legislative measures are being put in place, and drills, tactical exercises, and so on are being carried out to deal with individual emergencies. There is an urgent need, though, to address the handling of situations that occur simultaneously or take place one after another.

Proposal 5: Implement a new arms export control policy

The Guidelines do not go so far as stipulate that the Three Principles on Arms Exports be revised. But in Section VI, entitled “Basic Foundations to Maximize Defense Capability,” the Guidelines make an indirect reference to the necessity of easing the principles, stating, “Japan will study measures to respond to such major changes” as the fact that participation in international joint development and production—now the mainstream among developed nations—enables improved performance of defense equipment and ways of dealing with the rising cost of equipment.

The 1962 Three Principles on Arms Exports were part of a policy of solidarity with West-bloc nations during the Cold War era. But their subsequent revision in 1976 into something more restrictive brought about a major change in the scope of the original policy. Maintaining this policy was problematic even during the time of the Cold War, and ever since the transfer of military technology to the United States in 1983, Japan has managed to deal with this by making exceptions based upon statements by the chief cabinet secretary or the consent of relevant ministries and agencies.

The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has deteriorated in the two decades since the end of the Cold War. Moreover, given the difficulty of increasing defense spending in Japan’s current fiscal situation, it is clear that Japan must proceed with joint international arms development and production while at the same time deepening the Japan-US alliance, enhancing regional cooperation, and increasing international contributions. These steps are being hindered, however, by the Three Principles.

Since the end of the Cold War Japan has taken action to make exemptions in cases such as UN peacekeeping operations, activities for the removal of anti-personnel landmines, joint development of ballistic missile defense systems, and counter-terrorism and anti-piracy activities. But there is a limit to making exemptions on a case-by-case basis.

One recent example is the suspension in 2010 of the joint development of carrier-based battle command system software, a BMD system research project that Japan and the United States had been working on together. Because it was decided in 2010 that BMD systems would be deployed in Europe, the US planned for European countries to purchase the aforementioned software system under joint Japanese-US development. Given the current policy, however, action to make an exception to the Three Principles would have been required. This would have meant going through a protracted process involving an exchange of notes between Japan and the United States and approval by the Japanese cabinet.

Seeking to avoid a lengthy, convoluted process, the United States chose to pursue independent development. Japan ended up not only hurting its alliance with the United States but also missing an opportunity to contribute to improving the security of close allies as well as a prime chance to raise the level of civilian technology through military software development.

Furthermore, if Japan endeavors to become more active in PKOs and other forms of international cooperation, as expressed in the Guidelines, it will need to consider donating a variety of equipment, including arms, so that developing countries can enhance their peacekeeping capabilities.

In this light, Japan has few choices. The clearest-cut choice would be prompt termination of the Three Principles policy. Japan is a “white list” country that participates in all export control regimes. It is a nation that implements export controls on arms in accordance with an ironclad export control law, the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (Act. No. 228 in 1949). The Foreign Exchange Act is rated on a par with laws in the United States and European countries.

Presumably, contributing to international peace and security by controlling arms, general-purpose goods, and so forth in accordance with UN resolutions, the Foreign Exchange Act, and sanction laws unique to Japan should suffice under normal conditions. But if this is ambiguous as a guiding principle, arms export controls should be administered in accordance with the new principles presented below.

(1) Strictly control and regulate technology transfers and exports of arms, etc., in accordance with the principle of a peace-loving nation.

(2) Do not carry out technology transfers and exports of arms, etc., to parties to international disputes (including potential cases).

(3) Do not carry out technology transfers and exports of arms, etc., to countries and regions where human rights are being violated or to parties to such abuse.

(4) Abide by UN resolutions and other international agreements pertaining to banning or limiting exports of arms, etc.

(5) Make decisions on a case-by-case basis in accordance with principles (1) through (4) for international technology cooperation in such forms as exports and technology transfers for humanitarian purposes, exports and technology transfers for the purpose of encouraging capacity building for peace building in other countries, and the international development of weapons.

Note: Under the Three Principles, arms are defined as goods that “based on shape, features, and so forth . . . are to be used by military forces and directly employed in combat.” Among the goods listed in Paragraph 1 of Appended Table 1 of the Export Trade Control Order (Cabinet Order No. 378; Dec. 1, 1949) for the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act (Act No. 228; Dec. 1, 1949) and technologies related to arms listed in Paragraph 1 of the Appended Table of the Foreign Exchange Order (Cabinet Order No. 260; Oct. 11, 1980), they comprise eight types of conventional weapons: those falling in one of the seven categories specified in the UN Register of Conventional Arms and those in the additional category of small arms (including portable surface-to-air missiles).

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