of Japan’s New Defense Program Guidelines
Japan’s, “National Defense Program
Guidelines for FY 2011 and Beyond,” (NDPG 2011) approved in December 2010
denotes a subtle shift in Japanese defense policy from reactive to active, or
as the Guidelines denote dynamic defense paradigm. Noboru Yamaguchi, a retired Lieutenant
General of the Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) and currently Professor at
the National Defense Academy, Yokosuka an hour and a half away from Tokyo has explained some of the key terms outlined
in the NDPG 2011in a Policy Research Brief, “Deciphering the New National
Defense Guidelines of Japan”. This essay is a review of these documents.
Transformation is as much a truism in defense
as in other fields of national activity. Defense transformations are
particularly significant as these are directly related to existential security
of a nation; are expensive to implement; take time to be effective and vastly
challenge the human and psychological dimension. Yet these become inevitable
when shifts take place in regional and global political architecture and new
security threats and paradigms emerge. In the realist domain, the rise of China
and India, reemergence of Russia and relative decline of American influence has
led to reset in the global power equations.
Threats arising from terrorism and
piracy and control of access to space, cyber and natural resources are
challenges in the global commons needing a collaborative approach. Japan’s vast
territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) add another dimension to
its security. Above all, it seems that the color of security today is, “grey,”
rather than black or white as portends of state on state wars have declined while
conflicts short of war seem to be increasing.
Significantly Japan is impacted by all
these factors, China and Russia are neighbors with past legacy of conflict.
There is a contest over maritime
territory with increasingly aggressive claims manifesting in varied dimensions,
many of which are difficult to interpret as belligerence yet can challenge maritime
sovereignty. The NDPG 2011 thus calls such
issues most aptly as, “gray-zone,” disputes.
While the United States is a resident
power in East Asia, the new wider Asia Pacific policy, declining defense budget
and global interests highlights the necessity of US treaty allies as Japan to
review their existing defense policies. The NDPG is, therefore, timely.
The NDPG 2011, however, does not alter fundamentals
of Japanese defense policy which will continue to be, “exclusively defense
oriented,” as defined by the Constitution. The NDPG 2011 outlines a subtle
shift in defense preparedness from static to multi dimensional flexible response.
This is done keeping in view the diverse form of threats faced by Japan today which
are elaborated. Yamaguchi’s policy brief culls three key terms from the NDPG
2011, “Dynamic Defense Force,” active contributions, “to creating global peace
and stability,” and, “seamless response,” to provide greater clarity or
underline the basic thought process and likely actualization. An examination of both these documents is therefore
The NDPG 2011 is a concise yet complete
document outlining guidelines for Japanese security and defense policy. It
covers basic principles of Japan’s security and examines the security
environment as relevant to the country. It includes basic policies, portrays
the role and structure of future defense forces and lays down foundations for
maximizing defense capability.
The objectives of Japanese security
policy are no different from that of any nation state with global interests as
well as proximate security challenges. First
and foremost goal is to prevent threats that directly affect Japan and eliminate
these in case they manifest minimizing damage. Stabilizing Asia Pacific
regional and improving global security environment are natural addendums for
Japan the third largest economy in the World.
Distillation of the security environment
around Japan leads to the derivation of need for preparing for, “various
contingencies,” in concert with allies and partners particularly so as a full
scale invasion is considered unlikely. The requirement for contingency planning
is underlined in the context of likely instability on the Korean Peninsula
following the sudden demise of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il on 17 December
2011 with a possible power vacuum the consequences of which may spill over in the
The basic policies to meet these
challenges are divided in three spheres, Japan’s own efforts, co-operation with
ally the United States and multi layered international cooperation globally as
well as in the Asia Pacific region. The two key factors outlined in indigenous
efforts are integrated response and dynamic defense force. The importance of a,
“seamless response,” is also highlighted in this context. Yamaguchi explains
the three dimensions of, seamless, that is applied to all stages of a situation
from normal to emergency, in multiple contingencies simultaneously and
coordinated across the entire government system. The challenge posed by Tsunami
2011 and Fukushima underlines the need for seamless response and bears out the
principles outlined by Yamaguchi.
The Dynamic Defense Force is designed to
provide, “dynamic deterrence,” as opposed to, “existential deterrence,” in the
past. As Yamaguchi explains this would envisage displaying Japanese defense
capabilities in action with the example provided of conduct of intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance activities to deter incursions into Japanese
air or maritime space. For this purpose, Dynamic Defense Force will act with
enhanced tempo in a versatile manner.
Redeployment of the force is also proposed based on a review of
priorities sending a clear signal to any intender wanting to cause harm to
Proactive engagement for further
stabilization of the regional and global security environment is another task
outlined for the Dynamic Defense Force, though what is implied by, “proactive,”
is not clear. Cooperation with the United States and multilaterally in the
region as well as around the globe is another facet. While it seeks to promote
confidence with China and Russia, India has been clearly singled out for
greater engagement based on common interests in maritime security, in the
Indian Ocean region. The India-Japan-US trilateral held in Washington on 20
December 2011 is perhaps an outcome of this policy.
Interestingly active participation in
international peace cooperation is sought to achieve the goals of human
security rather than merely increasing Japan’s own defense. Yamaguchi rightly
comments that this is the most appropriate role for Japan as a leading economic
power and something that it has been possibly shying away from publicizing. Nevertheless,
he also cautions that, with limitations of funding, it would be necessary to
prioritize between security of Japan and regionally, to global peacekeeping and
suggests that acquisition of defense assets, which may be useful for both the
tasks may be a via media.
The roles of defense forces in terms of
effective deterrence and response in the NDPG 2011 further amplify the concept
and rationale of Dynamic Defense Force. These include a wide range of
activities from active efforts for information superiority to ensuring security
of the sea and air space, responding to attacks on offshore islands, cyber
attacks, assaults by guerrillas and special operations forces, ballistic
missiles and multiple contingencies occurring simultaneously as well as
responding to CBRN disasters.
Readiness, jointness and international
peace cooperation activities are the three tenets outlined for maintaining adequate
force posture the same being the priority for strengthening the organization,
equipment and disposition of SDF with the basic tasks outlined for Ground,
Maritime and Air SDFs. Given the challenges arising from an aging population emphasis
on effective utilization of human resources has been placed, apart from
management of equipment and procurement procedures.
In the context of nuclear weapons, a
mention must also be made of Japan’s adoption of concept of, “extended
deterrence provided by the United States with a nuclear deterrent as a vital
element.” This is a realistic presumption within the overall long term goal of
creating a world without nuclear weapons given proximity of Japan to three nuclear
armed states, Russia, China and North Korea. While the nuclear rationale of
both Russia and China are well established, North Korea remains an enigma which
may increase in uncertainty after the demise of Kim Jong-Il. Yet reliance on
extended deterrence implying a combination of missile defense, anti WMD, C4 I2
and civil protection broadens measures undertaken to meet the challenge. While
the phrase, “implement its own efforts,” for this purpose has been clarified
this could be open for varied interpretation.
On the whole, NDPG 2011 is a concise document
yet comprehensively covers the new defense policy being adopted by Tokyo. While
some may see a more muscular Japanese approach, others could identify
realignment in keeping with the changing security environment. Professor
Yamaguchi’s amplification of some of the key facets has added value to
understanding Japanese defense policy for the future. Coming from someone close
to the Japanese defense policy establishment, this enhances transparency as
well as highlights the red lines to those who need to perceive these as such.
Research Brief, “Deciphering the New National
Defense Guidelines of Japan” by Lt Gen (Retd) and Professor Noboru Yamaguchi is published by Tokyo Foundation [(http://www.tokyofoundation.org]
and is available at their web site