Save the Peace Constitution of Japan

-- From Imitation ¡§Exclusively Defensive Defense¡¨

 to Genuine ¡§Northeast Asia Cooperative Security¡¨

Hiromichi Umebayashi, Peace Depot, Japan

World Peace Forum, Vancouver, Canada, June 2006




Exclusively Defensive Defense?


Under its Peace Constitution, Japan has been committed to being a country with exclusively defensive defense (EDD). In truth, it has never been such a country.


For instance, in 1981, at the request of the United States, Japan committed to defend its own sea lines of communication (SLOC) within 1000 nautical miles from Japan. The implication of this, of course, is that Japan then relied upon US offensive capabilities to protect the SLOC beyond 1000 nautical miles. Japan also depends upon US nuclear forces, the most destructive military force in the world, to protect itself against nuclear threats. Furthermore, Japan has been allowing the US Navy to homeport ships equipped with Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles with capability to attack military and political targets in Asian countries and the Russian Far East.


The reality is that there has been military role-sharing between the United States and Japan. The former plays the role of spear and the latter that of shield. Japan has asked the United States to take charge of unrestricted offense while putting constraints on the activities of the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) to act within the exclusively defensive defense (EDD) policy. Therefore, the Japan¡¦s EDD concept is not a pacifist idea originating from the spirit of the Peace Constitution of Japan, but an imitation in appearance in order to hide within the framework of the Constitution.


Primarily, an EDD policy should be a comprehensive security policy of a country as a whole. In Japan¡¦s case, the security policy should be its comprehensive policy for defense and diplomacy including both for the SDF and for the Japan-US security arrangement. Therefore, Japan should make the Japan-US security arrangement consistent with the EDD principle if it really implements its EDD idea as laid out in the Peace Constitution.


To have this done, Japan should have exerted much more deliberate and stronger diplomatic efforts. It should have been much more independent, rather than obedient to the United States as it still is today. Japan should have undertaken much more sincere efforts to build confidence and create dialogue mechanisms with its Asian neighbors.


In fact, none of these were made. As long as the EDD policy remained but a mere imitation in appearance, such efforts were not needed.


Toward a Northeast Asian Security Framework


My intention is not just to accuse Japan of having an EDD policy that is a forgery. Beyond admitting this fact, we need to understand why such a forgery has been allowed to continue to exist and to find a path to transform it into a genuine EDD policy.


Japan has repeatedly explained to Asian countries that it will not become a military power, and that its defense force is meant solely for EDD. This position has been explicitly declared in Japan¡¦s official ¡§National Defense Program Outline.¡¨ This statement is a kind of insurance policy that Japan has been offering in order to maintain and develop good relations with Asian countries. However, Asian countries, especially Japan¡¦s closest neighbors, have consistently not trusted this statement because they believe the EDD policy is not genuine but rather, simply a rhetorical gesture.


However, it is to be noted that Japan does get some good value from the EDD policy. SDF airplanes and ships lack certain basic equipment deemed necessary for attacking cities and ground military targets of other countries, and the SDF commits to not possessing aircraft carriers and long-range land attack missiles including ICBMs, which enable expeditionary offense. In order for Japan to preserve the concept of EDD and accordingly the effectiveness of the Peace Constitution, it is essential to clarify the concept in the regional context of Northeast Asia and discuss it publicly in regional forums.


Recently, I had a chance to speak with a four star general of the People¡¦s Army of the PRC. He was a quiet and thoughtful person. He said, ¡§Now that Japan has become a great economic power in the world, it is very natural that people in Japan would strive for a national identity and with it, nationalistic emotions arise. However, to my uneasiness, I cannot help being struck by a constant attitude among Japanese leaders of subservience to the United States and arrogance towards Asian countries. The more subservient they are to the United States, the more Japan¡¦s nationalism will be distorted and the negative consequences of such distortion may flow into the rest of Asia.¡¨


Unfortunately, his comment is consistent with many of my experiences when I speak with Foreign Ministry officials in Japan. However, while this attitude is dominant among mainstream elites, it is not common in the general public, especially in the younger generation.


Given this situation, it is crucial for us to propose to the public in the region visions and practical steps for a possible Northeast Asia cooperative security system, which may provide both an opportunity to transform Japan¡¦s fake EDD policy to a genuine one and encourage Japan to maintain its Peace Constitution. The Peace Depot has proposed two practical approaches that the Japanese peace movement can undertake to achieve such objectives in cooperation with civil society in the region as well as in wider international community, namely to establish a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ) and to make Japan¡¦s EDD status recognized internationally.


As for the NEA-NWFZ, we have proposed a Model Treaty[1] with a three plus three arrangement, in which South Korea, North Korea and Japan constitute a NWFZ and China, Russia and the United States provide security assurances. This scheme is realistic and attainable on the basis of the 1992 Inter-Korean Joint Declaration for Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the Japan¡¦s Non-Nuclear Three Principles. By pursuing such a NWFZ, all the non-nuclear countries are liberated from the nuclear threat. In addition, Japan and South Korea can end their double standard of demanding that North Korea discard its nuclear program, while simultaneously asking the United States for the protection of its nuclear umbrella.[2]


As for the EDD status, we propose that Japan declare itself to be a country with the EDD principle under Article 9 of the Peace Constitution and ask for the adoption of a UN General Assembly resolution that confirms such status and calls for its recognition and necessary cooperation by the international community. This proposal follows the example of Mongolia whose nuclear-free status was internationally recognized by a UN General Assembly resolution in 1998. In order to proceed in this way, Japan has to define the EDD principle and not allow arbitrary interpretations and double standards as in the current fake EDD. In my personal view, it will be possible to attain a reasonable definition under the specific geographic conditions of Japan, but the efforts will require establishing a mechanism to discuss the subject among neighboring countries. This process will be a confidence building process in itself.[3]


It is worth noting that the two approaches described above are not inconsistent with the Japan-US Security Treaty. In fact, the Treaty includes a clause to the effect that the Treaty itself will be discarded when an effective regional security system is established. Namely, Article10 reads as follows, ¡§This Treaty shall remain in force until in the opinion of the Governments of Japan and the United States of America there shall have come into force such United Nations Arrangements as will satisfactorily provide for the maintenance of international peace and security in the Japan area.¡¨


[2] A fuller discussion is found at: