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Expanding Japan’s Credible Defense Role Masashi Nishihara T h e security environment surrounding Japan is changing rapidly. The growing Soviet presence in Indochina, the changing Sino-American relations over the treatment of Taiwan, and the Soviet military and naval buildups in Soviet Asia and the Western Pacific, including the disputed Kurile Islands, among others, pose new security questions for Japan. The definite shift of the Carter and Reagan administrations toward Cold War tactics and attitudes since late 1979 has added a particularly important dimension. This new environment requires that Japan reexamine its national interests, its defense policies, and its role in the Japan-U.S. security relationship. The basic question is whether Japan has ”sufficient” defense capability-sufficient to cope with the new security environment-to pursue and protect its national security interests, and, if not, what Japan’s policy options are. Current Defense Policy and Obsolete Assumptions In terms of security defined in the narrow military sense, current Japanese security policy was outlined in October 1976by the National Defense Council and the Cabinet, both chaired by the Prime Minister. As of the summer of 1983, this National Defense Program Outline (NDPO) is still officially in effect.’ It is important to examine this document carefully. The NDPO, first of all, assumes that: 1. There is ”little possibility of a full-scalemilitary clash between the East and the West or of major conflict possibly leading to such a clash”; 2. There is “little possibility of limited military conflict breaking out in Japan’s neighborhood”; and Masashi Nishihara is Professor of International Relations, National Defense Academy, near Tokyo. Research for this article was primarily supported by a project of the Japan Center for International Exchange. Parts of the research were conducted in the United States while the author was Visiting Research Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, New York, in 1981-1982. The views expressed here are strictly the author‘s own. 1. The English text of the Outline appears in Japan, Defense Agency, Defense of Japan 1977 (1977), pp. 14S150, and in most of the subsequent annual white papers. htc~riintioii~/ Sccirrrty, Winter 1983184 (Vol. 8, No. 3) 0162-28891841030180-26$02.5010 0 1984 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 180 Expanding Japan’s Defense I 181 3. The existence of the Japan-U.S. security arrangement (plus the equilibrium between the two superpowers) can prevent full-scale aggression against Japan. Regarding how to cope with possible aggression, the NDPO then stipulates as follows: 1. Against indirect aggression Japan ”will take immediate responsive action in order to settle the situation at an early stage”; 2. In case of limited and small-scale aggression, Japan will repel it, “in principle without external assistance”; 3. In cases in which aggression cannot feasibly be dealt with without assistance, Japan will continue unyielding resistance until “such time as cooperation from the United States is introduced”; and 4. Against nuclear war, Japan ”will rely on the nuclear deterrent capability of the United States.” In short, this defense policy has two important elements: maintenance of a minimum level of military power for Japan and continuation of the JapanU .S. Security Treaty. It is formulated on the basic assumption that there would be no major war involving Japan as long as the United States and the Soviet Union maintain strategic nuclear parity; in other words, as long as the United States does not fall behind the Soviet Union, the U.S. deterrent for Japan remains credible. It was with this comfortable assumption that for many years Japan adopted what was called “omnidirectional diplomacy,” a diplomacy designed to make friends with countries in every direction by avoiding involvement in international conflicts and by not offending anyone. Maximum economic expansion with minimum political involvement, which was the essential guiding principle for Japanese foreign policy until recent years, was called ”the Yoshida Doctrine,” after the powerful former prime minister known as the “Adenauer of Japan.”2This basic policy of political non-involvement worked in Japan’s favor. Through it, Japan managed to avoid involvement in the tensions in the Korean and Indochinese peninsulas, and to retain good relations with...


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