Seizaburo Sato

In the Word “security”

The word “security” entered the Japanese vocabulary after World War II to replace the term “national defense,”which was generally in use before the war. Needless to say, there is an important difference in the meaning of these two terms.

The Japanese word, anzen hosho, is the translation from the English word security or the French word securite. Both the English and French words have their roots in the Latin word securitas, but “security” also means “collateral”. Security’s plural, securities, is also an economic word. In fact, “security” had a strong economic connotation before it acquired a wider meaning, of which defense of a country is one. On the other hand, “national defense” is precisely what it says. It means the military defense of a nation-state. In French, it is defense nationale and in German, Germany’s geopolitical environment is strongly reflected in the word Landesverteidigung, which means the defense of its territories.

Why “Security” Gained Currency: Collective Self-Defense and Democratization

In Europe, the word “security” began to replace the term “national defense”after World War I.

The French called its collective defense policy to contain Germany after the war through a string of alliances with other states “security policy.” This probably made sense as a way to distinguish it from a single country’s national defense policy.

World War I was the world’s first total war. It required the mobilization of ordinary citizens, both voluntarily and by conscription, asking the citizens to sacrifice lives and bear a considerable burden for the cause of the war. With the introduction of modern weapons such as airplanes and tanks, the scale of damage and the number of casualties grew considerably as well. These new aspects of the war had a considerable impact on society, leading to the growing demands for rights for the masses. As a result, total war became a strong engine that promoted democratization in many countries. It is no coincidence that many Western European countries granted voting rights to women after World War I.

But while World War I initially began as a war between European empires, the nature of the war gradually changed with the participation of the United States. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson used the term “War for Democracy” when he explained its objective in an effort to gain the support of the American people, given the strong isolationist current that existed in the United States. He further stressed “the Principle of Self-Determination of Peoples,” and this, combined with the influence of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, transformed the war from a war between empires to war between democracy and absolutism. In the wake of the war, democracy became widely accepted as a legitimate political system and the influence of popular feeling became larger. The people came to count more when referring to the “state” or the “nation.” As a result, the word “security” became a more appropriate expression than “national defense” as well.

World War II furthered this tendency as the victors characterized this war as a war of”democracy (good) against totalitarianism/fascism (evil).” This characterization may be rather simplistic, in view of the fact that both Chiang Kai-shek’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union participated on the Allied side. It could even be called hypocritical. But as the war was started by the Axis powers of Germany and Japan ending in Allied victory, this characterization became widely accepted among victors and losers alike. Consequently, democracy’s legitimacy gained more currency to the point where countries whose political systems can hardly be called liberal or democratic came to call themselves “people’s democracy” or some such.

Nevertheless, during the Cold War, the most basic structure in international relations was the military confrontation between the East and the West. While some countries claimed neutrality, they remained within this basic system since their neutrality was still framed by the East-West confrontation. Under these circumstances, it was only natural that the military dimension of security should be important. Sweden’s concept of “total security” and Switzerland’s “civil defense” both aimed at preparing each citizen, along with the government, for a military threat. The word “common security,モ made famous by the Palme Commission’s report, was based on the idea that it was in the common interest of both Eastern and Western camps to avoid nuclear war.


Japan is probably the first country to place importance on the nonmilitary dimension of security and to create a policy that reflected this. The damaging experiences of the several oil crises in the 1970’s led Japan to stress the importance of economic security, especially in the wake of the first oil crisis. The Ohira Cabinet’s policy study group eventually published a policy recommendation titled “Comprehensive Security” that included responses to large-scale disasters. While Japan has not been able to address military issues directly since the end of World War II for reasons I shall explain later, it was able to flourish economically even as a resource-poor country. In this sense, the impact of the oil crises was felt hard in Japan, allowing the formation of responses to nonmilitary threats to obtain popular support more easily. By following this link you can discover more about foreign affairs journal online.

The core of this policy recommendation by the Ohira Cabinet’s study group, nevertheless, considered Japan’s security policy in both military and diplomatic dimensions. But Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira’s untimely death led to the establishment of a new study group, which cut short Ohira’s efforts.

The Comprehensive Security Cabinet Conference that was formed under his successor, Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki, decided to delete military issues from the study agenda. Suzuki, who made this decision, was known once for stating publicly that the Japan-U.S. alliance did not include a military dimension. While his views on security were not in tune with the international environment, for better or for worse, they reflected a good portion of Japanese opinion at the time.

The transformation and demise of the Soviet Union led to the end of the Cold War. The receding threat of military confrontation led to a new phase of thinking about security’s nonmilitary dimension. Many new concepts were introduced.

“Cooperative security” is one such concept. Cooperative security aims to maintain international order by cooperative means (i.e., without resorting to the use of force and resolving conflicts through peaceful dialogue) in an environment where there are no identifiable enemies.

On the other hand, “global security” defines “threat” to be global environmental degradation, the widening gap of North-South economic standards, international terrorism, international organized crime and narcotic trafficking activities. More recently, terms such as “human security” and “social security” have come to the fore.

“Human security” stresses the importance of individual security, and here, the definition of a threat to a person’s security is far-reaching. Not only does it include security from war, terrorism and environmental degradation, but it also encompasses the protection and widening of human rights, protection from inequality and oppression, battling poverty and protection from diseases.

“Social security” widens the definition further by proclaiming the protection of ethnic minorities (including respecting cultural diversity in a multicultural society), social unity and social identity.

But if we continue to widen the range of matters to be considered security issues, soon everything will need to be protected from everything, diminishing the sense of using the word “security.”


The argument that individual security should take precedence when there is a conflict between national interest and individual interest is commonly heard in discussions about “human security.” But this is a perfect example of illogical thinking, as individual rights cannot be protected under a government that will not, and cannot, respect human rights. The state must obtain its security guarantee before it can protect individuals. If individual safety were of utmost importance, it would be impossible to demand soldiers, policemen and firemen to risk their lives. As a result, we would be responsible for our own safety from foreign aggression, crime or fire, and individual safety would no longer be guaranteed.

While environmental degradation, widening North-South economic gap, the oppression of human rights, or discrimination against ethnic minorities (ethnic cleansing is its worst manifestation) are all grave problems, they are matters to be handled within their own contexts. With the exception of extreme cases such as ethnic cleansing, responses to these problems should be addressed separately from security issues.

Although the Cold War is over, the world is neither peaceful nor safe. Traditional security concerns have not disappeared either. Therefore, in order to avoid confusing the argument, the word “security” from here on will strictly mean the military security of the state.

In the next sections, this paper will focus on the basic issues in Japanese security by first outlining the global context and changes in international relations, then analyzing the situation in East Asia and finally, examining basic problems with theories on Japan’s security.


In terms of security, the most significant transformation in international relations is the end of modern imperialism. While classical imperialism in pre-modern times tended to be about extending spheres of civilization, which was buttressed by religion, modern imperialism was born out of colonization by those who first succeeded in industrializing and building a nation-state. With the exception of Japan, until the middle of the 20th century, these countries were the Western powers- and their off-spring like Canada and Australia.

Modern imperialism was nothing more than a competition among these nations to gain colonies. The post-World War I era is often called the “post-imperialist eraモ as national self-determination gained legitimacy and sentiments against war gained weight in reaction to the highly destructive aspect of modern warfare. But this was in the West; World War I did not bring about independence to many of the colonies. The heritage of imperialism remained. Furthermore, Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy and Japan tried to re-run the course of imperialistic expansionist policies in the 1930s.

World War II dealt the final blow to imperialism. One after another, colonies in non-European regions won independence. The idea of national self-determination became widely accepted in non-European regions and nationalism fueled movements for independence. These movements made the colonies increasingly difficult and costlyムif not impossibleムto govern. At the same time, economic liberalization under American leadership also made it less pressing for countries to expand land territories for economic gains, as profits could be made through international trade and investment. The fact that no one rushed to expand their territory when the Soviet Union disintegrated illustrates the point that the age of imperialism has ended.

Today, China is the “last empire,” but this “empireモ is closer to the classical types as it is a manifestation of the “Middle China” civilization. China acknowledges itself to be heir to the Byzantine Empire, but it is also similar to Czarist Russia, which stood as the protector of Russian Orthodoxy.

But China is unlikely to collapse in the way the Soviet Union did because, unlike Czarist Russia (and its successor, the U.S.S.R.), where Russians were not the ethnic majority in many regions, China’s Han are the majority in all the regions, except Tibet.

China is also unlikely to adopt an expansionist policy of world domination. It would be impossible for China to build up its power significantly without facing opposition from either the United States, Russia, or Japan, even in the distant future. Even in East Asia, China would not be able to become a hegemonic influence so long as there is a U.S. military presence in the region.

Nevertheless, China could still become a threat to neighboring countries. In China, communism has lost popular support, and nationalism remains the only unifying principle today. In this condition, the domestic pressure for territorial claims on Taiwan and other islands (including Okinawa) could become stronger. However, unless the United States allows China’s military advances (or, to be more precise, unless China understands or misunderstands that the United States is letting China expand), the scope of China’s expansion will be limited. China’s option to expand or colonize does not exist because such actions would provoke the formation of a China barricade, with participation by both Russia and India, leading inevitably to China’s isolation. This would go against China’s interests. China needs a peaceful international environment, and its leadership presumably understands this well.


Many countries followed in the path of the first industrialized nations, but no country has shown signs of surpassing them economically and technologically. This is another condition in international relations that is as important as the end of imperialism. Major technological innovation has followed approximately every 100 years after the first industrial revolution in Great Britain in the latter half of the 18th century. In other words, the 19th century saw the birth of electric power, the diesel engine, iron and steel industries, and petrochemical industries; i.e., a revolution in heavy and chemical industries. In the 20th century, an information revolution is underway.

Only a few countries succeeded in industrializing their heavy and chemical sectors, but in this race Germany, Russia and Japan rose to challenge the supremacy of those starter countries. The confrontation between these challengers and the early starters defined the nature of the conflict in the two world wars and the Cold War. What we are witnessing in the information revolution today, on the other hand, is slightly different.

Although more countries are now industrialized, there is no country that might be in a position to economically surpass the early starters that now include Germany and Japan (especially in their capacity for technological development).

China, India and Brazil are all vast countries; they have sizable populations and are rich in resources. But they all have serious internal problems, and even if things ran relatively smoothly for them, it would be a while before any of them could become a serious challenger.

Russia is another matter. Should Russia adopt an absolutist government, manage to stabilize its politics and revitalize its economy, Russia can become a serious challenger once again. But unless the West carelessly rubs Russia’s nationalism the wrong way, Russia is less likely to revert to its old course. Russians have already tasted freedom and democracy since Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, after suffering centuries of absolutist rule under the czars and communism. With high educational standards, Russia is able to become a democratic power with a strong economy, even though it could take many years.

This kind of Russia is no longer a challenger; it is a key player with a constructive international role.


The early starter countries created the Western alliance during the Cold War and they had cultivated a mutual understanding among themselves not to resort to the use of force to resolve their differences. This gave birth to a “pluralistic security community.モ

There are two reasons why this type of peaceful relationship developed among the Western allied countries.

First, there were similarities. They shared basic values such as freedom and human rights and their political systems were similarly liberal democratic with market economies. This allowed for an intensive exchange of information, investment, trade and people, leading to the attainment of high living standards for all. These prosperous liberal democracies are now advanced democracies, and they are distinguished from other liberal democracies like India.

Second, they developed peacefully together because they shared the common experience of confronting the threat of the Soviet Union.

While Sino-Soviet confrontation divided the Eastern camp during the Cold War in East Asia, the end of the Cold War led to the quick dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in Europe. Yet, both pillars of the Western alliance, NATO and the U.S.-Japan security alliance, not only survived the Cold War, but their importance has not waned. This illustrates the durability of the Western alliance and its development into a pluralistic security community. The relationships among the countries that constitute this community encompass aspects other than security. There is an understanding that it is to everyone’s benefit to mutually interfere in each other’s fiscal, financial and tax policiesムpolicies hitherto considered an important part of national sovereignty. In this regard, nationalism has come to count less among these countries.

This security community, however, differs from the Concert of Europe that developed after the post-Napoleonic wars at the Congress of Vienna. Other “Vienna-type” regimes that advanced multilateral cooperation, such as the Nordic Council, had their roots in the 18th century. During the 1920’s there was the Washington regime, and in more recent times in Asia, there is ASEAN. But these regimes are about maintaining the status quo in the relationships among the member countries by considering the important interests of the members. They did not evolve from an alliance and do not have the key characteristic of the security community: namely, they will fight, if necessary, against a common threat.


The absence of challengers to the existing order in the foreseeable future and the formation of the security community by advanced democracies considerably diminish the possibility of a major war. This is a dramatic development in the history of international relations, and it is also a great achievement for mankind.

Yet this does not guarantee the pluralistic security community will remain intact forever. In particular, should American popular dissatisfaction about the lack of military burden-sharing by its allies get louder, the United States could turn toward unilateralism. This, in turn, would lead to distrust of the United States by its allies, pushing the United States further toward unilateralism. This kind of vicious cycle could lead to the dissolution of the security community. As I will explain later, when considering Japan’s security policy, one must take into full account this worst-case scenario and think of ways to avoid it.

American unilateralism, in terms of its ignoring the actions of or impact on others, is similar to the traditional isolationist behavior that characterized the United States before World War II. The Monroe Doctrine that called for non-interference in matters in the Western Hemisphere and the refusal on the part of the United States to be involved in matters outside its hemisphere now go against U.S. interests. On the other hand, the collapse of the Soviet Union has left the United States as the only military superpower; the United States also leads in technological innovation, especially in the information revolution, and is almost defying others to catch up. The temptation toward unilateralism is, therefore, greater now. It must also not be forgotten that among the advanced liberal democracies, the United States has particularly strong nationalist sentiments.

Furthermore, during the Cold War, the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance was the decisive factor in Western security. The American role and responsibility as a nuclear power was, thus, greater than that of other allied countries. The United States also did not permit another nuclear power aside from itself even within the Western alliance, so the United States thought it obvious that it should take on the heavy responsibility. Yet, while the possibility of a nuclear war has receded with the end of the Cold War, the importance of conventional military power has re-emerged in maintaining international order. In light of this development, the U.S. government and its people have come to demand greater security burden-sharing from their allies. There is a possibility that the United States might abandon its responsibilities as a military superpower, should its allies continue to maintain their posture in spite of changing circumstances.

In character with a relatively young power, U.S. diplomacy sometimes lacks that the sophistication that is required in a military superpower, although not to the extent of behaving irresponsibly. Consequently, those leaders wanting to change the status quo may misread U.S. actions to assume that there will be no U.S. intervention in their military adventures. The Korean War in 1950 began because Kim Il Sung and Stalin misconstrued Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s careless remark that could have been understood to mean that South Korea was outside of the United States’ area of defense in East Asia. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 could also be attributed to U.S. officials’ words and actions that insinuated that the United States would not intervene, which Saddam Hussein misread. The “three no’s” that President Bill Clinton stated unofficially on China policy could also provoke Chinese military action toward Taiwan, should this statement be repeated.


As I have already mentioned, the birth of the security community that encompasses the major countries is a landmark in the history of international relations. But those who are in this community are limited to advanced liberal democracies. Many countries are now in the process of democratization, as liberal democracy has become the only legitimate political system. It is a domino effect. In Taiwan and Korea, the process of democratization is almost irreversible. But countries like them are few and far between. Many newly democratizing nations are unable to leave political instability and economic hardship behind. In India and Sri Lanka, where democracy is more than a half-century old, an economic take-off has yet to materialize, leaving the majority of people in poverty. There is no guarantee that democratization will lead to economic prosperity, and not a few countries, like China, view democratization itself as dangerous.

The reality of the North-South gap is a cause of dissatisfaction for many of the countries in the process of democratization, and this can lead to the rise of nationalism. The rise of fundamentalism has been a constant theme in the history of religion, but today’s political radicalism that is tied to religious fundamentalism (as seen typically in Islamic Fundamentalism) is actually this expression of nationalism in developing countries. Many of the borders of developing countries that became independent after World War II were created out of deals between imperial powers or as a means to balance the spheres of influence among them. Their ethnic makeup did not factor into the drawing of those borders. Therefore, when nationalism becomes heated in these countries, minority groups demand more autonomy or independence and the “principle of people’s self-determination” often means dismemberment for them.

But for the ethnic majority to unite and rule the country, while ceding to some demands from minority groups, is not an easy task. Often times, the result is suppression by the majority group and rebellion by the minorities. In the post-Cold War era, civil wars caused by ethnic conflict have often led to armed conflict with serious international implications. For example, the ethnic conflict in the Kashmir region has spiraled into a serious military confrontation between India and Pakistan. For more information please contact us.

Democratization can be dangerous for countries experiencing internal conflict. As long as democracy means self-rule by the peopleムthat is the principle of self-determinationムdemands for autonomy or independence made by minority groups must be fulfilled. Furthermore, a market economy cannot function without political stability; if there is a civil war, there is no hope for economic development.

China’s ethnic minority problem, however, is not the same as the others. The Chinese government is claiming that territories defined on the map from the last dynasty (which was the second largest in China’s dynastic history) are legitimately theirs. Yet China, like other developing nations, views democratization as dangerous. Its external policy, which is driven by the principle of “territorial integrity,” makes China similar to many developing countries that have border disputes as well. Japan, Russia and Korea also share territorial disputes with China, but the territorial issue is not a high priority in Japan’s foreign policy.

North Korea, which is a security concern for Japan, is a peculiar case. Its borders have been closed since the Cold War era, but it is presently trying to hold onto a system that has failed economically. During the Cold War, North Korea managed to secure assistance from both the Soviet Union and China through a balancing act. But when no assistance was forthcoming from either of them after the Cold War, it began to build up its military power and embark on a policy of desperation to lure economic assistance from the United States, Korea and Japan. This situation is markedly different from other developing countries. Yet, North Korea’s power is limited, and it has de facto given up on the idea of North Korea-led unification of the Korean Peninsula. The threat from North Korea can, therefore, considered to be limited, unless the North Koreans “accidentally” pull the trigger to start a war. But this plainly spells the disintegration of the North Korean systemムmaking its possibility even lower.


In the present world, two distinctly different types of international relations exist. One is the pluralistic security community among the advanced democracies. The other is the international relations among the developing countries, in which territorial disputes are an extremely important issue or states are in a state of internal war or on the verge of collapse. In the former group, the use of force for resolving disputes between them is almost not an option, and nationalism is kept at bay. In the latter group, the use of force is considered the norm when necessary, and nationalism is flaring up in ethnic majority groups and minorities. Here you can read more about us.

These two sets of international relations existed during the Cold War. In fact, during the Cold War, competition between the East and West to extend their spheres of influence in developing countries created situations in which conflict resolutions were difficult. The Eastern camp tried to exploit the developing countries’ dissatisfaction with their Western patrons to its advantage by exporting arms. The end of the East-West split brought some changes, but the second set of international relations is still tension-ridden.

On the other hand, these two sets of international relationships are deeply intertwined by trade, investment, refugee problems, energy/environment issues and problems over human rights. Furthermore, their differing visions for an ideal international order are a divisive issue between the two. The advanced liberal democracies want to maintain the status quo, whereas the developing countries would rather change it to their advantage.

At the same time, advanced democracies are often forced to respond to challenges to the international order that emanate from developing countries. In these situations, the influence of public opinion in advanced democracies has become stronger in recent years. International television links bring images of scenes of civil war in developing countries into the comfortable living rooms of advanced democratic countries, and governments are often forced to act under public pressure. Public opinion is especially influential in the United States, where “liberty,モ “democracyモ and “human rightsモ are sacrosanct founding principles of the country. And, as the notion of “human securityモ gains strength in moving public opinion, the pressure to intervene in civil wars gets higher. This is another dangerous dimension of the “human securityモ argument.

When civil wars affect international relations, the degree to which international law and the respect for sovereignty of states should be observed becomes an issue. Recent conflicts in Kosovo and East Timor make the point clear: there were no clear answers about the effectiveness and legitimacy of the intervention by other countries or the United Nations and other international organizations. There are further complications to international humanitarian interventionムto defend human rights, for exampleムwhen powers like China and Russia or resource-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are party to the conflict. We can debate which of the fourムChina’s Tibet policy, Russia’s military suppression in Chechnya, Yugoslavia’s policy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or Indonesia’s policy in East Timorムis worse for human rights. But in the case of Saudi Arabia, it does not even pretend to be a democracy.

International relations has always had an element of hypocrisy, but as international intervention in civil wars or human rights suppression has become increasingly an important security issue, the hypocritical side has also been amplified. This hypocrisy further hardens the feeling of dissatisfaction among those developing countries that are subject to intervention. Even though the end of the Cold War relieved the world of the fear of major war (i.e., nuclear war), it still has many problems that are difficult to solve.


Japan’s security was basically guaranteed after World War II by its alliance with the United States. Especially until the mid-1970’s, Japan did not have to work very hard to maintain its security since the United States had air and naval supremacy in East Asia. After the 1970’s, however, Japan’s cooperation in strengthening U.S. military capability began to matter more as the Soviet Union dramatically strengthened its air and naval power in the Far East. Nevertheless, it was still possible in East Asia and the North Pacific region–the second front line in the East-West conflict–to maintain a military balance in favor of the United States and Japan, even though Japan’s military expenditure was kept within 1 percent of its GNP. But while Japan was not pressed hard militarily, it developed an abnormal framework for the discourse on Japanese security. Furthermore, the masochistic acceptance by the Japanese of the stigma “invaderモ stamped by the Allied countries on both Japan and Germany, combined with experience of the disastrous losses in the war translated into strong antimilitary feelings. These psychological factors further warped Japan’s sense when it came to security discussions. Half a century has passed since the end of the war, but this condition has yet to be overcome.

Japan’s security discussion will never become meaningful unless this framework is reconstructed, and there are four points that obstruct meaningful security discussions:

(a) The attitude that views antimilitarism and pacifism as one and the same, and refuses to understand the meaning and role of military power for advanced democracies in the world, where both the Cold War and imperialism are things of the past.

(b) The lack of understanding of the problems caused by the aforementioned two co-existing and competing sets of international relations.

(c) The attitude of thinking about security only within this framework and

the minimalist interpretation of the Constitution.

(d) Overestimating the role of international organizations, such as the United Nations, and international frameworks, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

I will now discuss these four points and how the framework should be reconstructed.


In the wake of heavy casualties and damage in postwar Japan, pacifism began to take shape as antimilitarism. The Socialist left slogan, メYoung men, don’t take up the gun!モ in the 1950s captivated the hearts of the Japanese mainly because of this strong antimilitary feeling. Most of the opposition parties in the メ1955-systemモ argued for メun-armed neutrality,モ unable to distinguish between pacifism and antimilitarism.

Today, an absolute nonmilitary stance of this kind is foundless, but its resonance can still be detected in many areas. Let me draw just one example. “A peaceful Okinawa with no U.S. bases” is an expression that has much legitimacy in Okinawa today. But the presence of U.S. bases is the surest guarantee for peace today (although some countries may be targeting their missiles on U.S. bases). “Peace” in the phrase, “a peaceful Okinawa without bases” presumably means no criminal acts by U.S. servicemen and no noise from military aircrafts; it means obtaining a quiet and peaceful daily life, and not the security against external threats.

The need to alleviate the negative social impact of U.S. bases is an important issue in itself, but rather like the dangers considered in the notion of “human security,” it is a matter that requires a response separate from the question of security. The responses should be in a similar vein to those policies that address Japanese crimes or noises from civilian airports (although there is a question of degree).

Today, advanced democracies, including Japan, are able maintain their economic prosperity without recourse to territorial expansion or fundamental alteration of the present international order. As such, they have strong desires for peace because it is in their interest to maintain the status quo.

The military forces of these nations are, therefore, not for external advances. Instead, they have two roles: the traditional role of defending land, air and sea territories as well as those of their allies; and, maintaining international order.

Since the Cold War, military forces of the Western allies were designed to deter, that is to prevent, war. In order for deterrence to work, it is necessary to have both the capacity and will to inflict heavy damage on the other side, and to have the other side know this clearly. This kind of deterrent power acts as a threat. But there is a danger of a spiraling arms race between the two sides, and this is the dilemma of deterrence policy. During the Cold War, the core of deterrence was nuclear weapons and Japan, a non-nuclear nation, had relatively little to contribute in this arena. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the weight of deterrent power has been shifting from nuclear to conventional weapons, and Japan’s role and responsibility has increased with it.

On the other hand, so long as there are countries dissatisfied with the status quo, the need for deterrent power will not vanish completely. Confusing pacifism and nonmilitarism and protesting against military reinforcement is tantamount to the irresponsible act of abandoning the role of maintaining international order. For Japan to hold onto this kind of attitude, especially now that the Cold War is over, will only damage Japan’s credibility among its allies and friendly countries. Should Japan continue this way, it risks the dissolution of its alliance with the United States and the danger of American unilateralism. Follow this link to find out what you can discover on Gaiko Forum.


As mentioned, there are two sets of international relations. One is the peaceful relationship among status quo-oriented advanced democracies. The other is the relationships among the post-colonial, developing countries (many of which suffer internal problems, economic hardship, and are unhappy with the status quo), and their relationship with the advanced democracies. The latter has the potential of developing into an armed conflict, but only the advanced democracies have the capacity to deter these conflicts and civil wars. In these conflicts, it is useless to preach settlement through dialogue without considering the use of military capabilities. Conflicts and wars have broken out precisely because dialogue has failed. To delegate all hope of resolution to dialogue is simply a manifestation of antimilitarism.

Furthermore, Japan is surrounded by neighbors like China and North Korea, who aspire to strengthen their position through military power. There is a school of thought that argues that Japanese arms build-up is dangerous, even for deterrence purposes, as it will not only provoke China and North Korea and lead to heightened tension, but it can start an arms race in the region. There is no denying that the deterrent dilemma will surface in relations with China and North Korea. But it must be noted that both China and North Korea were engaged in an arms build-up regardless of Japan’s self-restrained posture on strengthening its military capabilities. The appropriate course to take in the event of an arms race in this region is to let the other side know that the economically and technologically far superior advanced democracies (in this case, the United States and Japan) have the will to cooperate and endure the arms race. They need to know that they will never win. The effectiveness of this course of action has already been proven by the Reagan Administration’s Star Wars Plan (SDI), which together with other arms build-up policies, played a role in helping to end the Cold War. At the same time, it is necessary to indicate that provision of development assistance may be a possibility if our potential adversaries stop their arms build-up. This is the way to secure peace.

Antimilitarism and the delusion that if Japan does not plan to invade other countries nobody will attack Japan are closely related. The gap between Japan’s percetion of, and the realities of international relations widens further when this delusion is linked to メresolution by dialogueモ thinking. This masochistic attitude was accentuated by the impact of the Tokyo Trials, which were conducted by the victors of World War II, although it has been rectified over the years. Nevertheless, it still has considerable influence on the way many Japanese consider security issues, and it is imperative that Japanese overcome it in order to conduct normal discussions on security.


Sound, objective analysis of the international situation is the starting point in any discourse on security issues. Yet this basic exercise has often been forgotten in postwar Japan; security issues were often considered within the framework of the so-called “Peace Constitution”. The common sense view that the Constitution does not exist independent of the state and should not be defended at the expense of national security is regaining ground among opinion leaders today. But among politicians in both government and opposition parties, the tendency to think of security issues in terms of the framework of the Constitution is still dominant, even though a study group on constitutional issues has been set up in the Diet.

The significant fact here is that the minimalist interpretation of the Consti-tution’s Article 9, including the government’s official interpretation, is still widely accepted in the political world. A typical example is the government’s interpretation of the invocation of the right to collective defense and the use of force overseas. Although the legitimate use of force domestically is monopolized by the state, individuals have the right to self-defense and emergency evacuation when circumstances render it needed. It is natural that a country, likewise, has the right to self-defense, whether it is written clearly in the Constitution or not, especially when there is no “world government”. And it is equally clear that there are two types of “right to self-defense”: one that is invoked individually, and another that is invoked collectively, with allies and friendly countries.

The Japanese government actually subscribes to these positions. But because of constitutional restraints, the government takes the position that Japan is forbidden to invoke the right to collective self-defense; the opposition political parties naturally agree with this interpretation. It must be said, however, that to say on the one hand that Japan has the right but, on the other hand, is forbidden from invoking that right is illogical.

In view of technological advances in weapons, it would be costly to defend land and air territory by oneself. One must have vast military capabilities. That is why the system of collective self-defense became the norm after World War I. To argue that the invocation of the right to collective self-defense is unconstitutional signifies Japan’s intention to rely on the United States for its security. Otherwise, it means Japan must become militarily independent. That is, to allow Japan to become a military power.

Another term similar to collective self-defense, collective security, is often confused in Japan. But these are two completely different concepts. Collective self-defense is about how to fight a common threat. Collective security is international policing by subscribing members against another member’s wrongful actions. According to the official interpretation, it is unconstitutional either for Japan’s Self Defense Forces to take part in U.N. forces, multilateral or peacekeeping forces organized for the sake of collective security, if the mission involves the use of force. But this also provokes international criticism of Japan for trying to get by without exposing itself to danger. In both cases of invoking the right to collective self-defense and participating in collective security actions, Japan must carefully examine, case-by-case, the practical extent to which it will get involved. There can be options of opting out of participation, but this is a matter of political judgment and not about the interpretation of the Constitution.


The expression has now become obsolete, but when Japan joined the United Nations, one of the principles of Japanese foreign policy was “U.N.-centrism”. This illustrates postwar Japan’s faith in the United Nations. The United Nations is the largest international organization, with the greatest number of member countries, but because of its size, it is a forum suited more for negotiation rather than reaching a consensus. This limits the U.N.’s effectiveness. The Security Council makes decisions on matters pertaining to security, but because the five major victors of World War II are permanent members (P-5) with the right to veto, it is difficult to decide anything that is against the interest of the P-5 countries. In terms of Japan’s security, the United Nations can only be relied upon on issues to which China agrees.

Multilateral frameworks like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) are useful in deepening mutual understanding and easing tension. But they are only forums for loose discussion and exchange of information, and do not have binding power on member countries. In fact, the ARF cannot even match the effectiveness of the Concert of Europe of the 19th century as a framework for multilateral cooperation. The G-7 (or G-8 with Russia), which is comprised of advanced democracies with similarities and shared interests, is actually more effective than the United Nations in maintaining and strengthening international order, especially in view of how it dealt with Kosovo. But concerted action is hard to come by even from the members of the G-7. Mankind has yet to come up with an effective multilateral security framework that supercedes the system of collective self-defense based on alliances.


As a conclusion, let me summarize in the fashion of policy recommendations.

1) The word “security” has many meanings, but they should not be extended carelessly. It should be used to mean mainly the security of the nation. To proliferate matters to be considered as security issues by using terms like “global security”, “human security”, or “societal security” blurs the issues that are being raised, and therefore, should be avoided. Environmental issues and human rights are important, but they are matters to be considered outside the conventional meaning of security.

2) Since World War I, technological advances in weapons have pushed for the creation of the system of collective self-defense, at least among the advanced democracies, and furthering this has become the norm of security policy. Therefore, the Japanese government’s narrow interpretation of the Constitution, which recognizes Japan’s right to collective self-defense but prohibits its use, is not only illogical, but damaging to Japan’s security.

3) There are no signs of a challenger country that can catch up with, and overtake the advanced democracies in this age of information technology-led third industrial revolution. Furthermore, most of the advanced democracies are members of a security community, and the use of force between them is unthinkable. There is also a high possibility that Russia will join this security community. Therefore, a major war between these nations should not erupt for a long time. On the other hand, should America’s allies, including Japan, become complacent and less cooperative in their effort to maintaining international order, it will heighten the possibility of American unilateralism. This could lead to the disintegration of the security community.

4) While major wars may be avoided, there are still dissident countries or countries threatened by dangers of internal instability and civil war. In order to deter these countries from taking destructive action and to resolve civil wars and other conflicts as peacefully as possible, concerted efforts by the advanced democracies are indispensable. It could be said that the advanced democracies’ military power is mainly for this purpose. In this regard, postwar Japan’s antimilitarism and preference for dialogue in resolving conflict are important issues to be overcome.

c 2000, Gaiko Forum English Edition