Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Defense Agency Upgraded to Defense Ministry
MAGOSAKI Ukeru / Professor of the National Defense Academy

February 6, 2007
Janaury 9 of this year saw the inauguration of the Ministry of Defense. This change puts it on par with other ministries whereas the the Defense Agency used to be an external bureau of the Cabinet Office. At the commemorative ceremony Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the upgrading will provide the foundation or mark a big step forward for Japan to grow out of the post-war regime and build a new country. For any country national defense provides the very foundation of statehood. That the institution responsible for this core function of the state remained an 'agency' i.e. an external bureau of the Cabinet Office, was abnormal. As the prime minister rightly said, the upgrading represents a departure from the (abnormal) 'post-war regime'.

Although the Ministry of Defense had been relegated to the status of an 'agency' it had played an important role in national politics in recent years. There are various indicators that describe the relative weight of a state organ in state affairs. Every newspaper has a column titled 'A Day at the KANTEI (Prime Minister's Official Residence)' that tells whom the prime mininster met the previous day. Among ministries and agencies whose top officials the prime minister met in recent years, the Defense Agency had been ranked among the top five. In that respect, the Defense Aency had already joined the ranks of major government ministries and agencies. The change of name this time adds the stamp of approval after the fact.

Most noteworthy in relation to this upgrading to a ministry is the changing mindset of the Japanese people. The 'post-war regime' the prime minister referred to was, indeed, an extremely distorted one. The underlying belief was that it was the Japanese military that caused the chaos in Asia's history before World War Two and, therefore, if their activity could be curtailed security will prevail in Japan and its neighborhood. This belief underlies the preamble to the Japanese constitution which says, 'We have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.' This belief relegated the state institution responsible for defense, a core function of the state, to the status of an external bureau of the Cabinet Office, not a ministry.

In recent years, however, the mentality of the Japanese people regarding national defense and the institution to provide it has undergone rapid change. It should be noted that this phenomenon emerged after the end of the cold war, in the past few years in particular. Shifting mentality of the public as reflected in the Cabinet Office polls is reviewed below.

(1) Do you think there is a risk that Japan will be drawn into war? (Percentage of affirmative responses)

1975: 14.3%, 1997 : 21.1%, 2003 : 43.2%, 2006 : 45.0%

(2) When Japan is invaded,
Will assist SDF Will join SDF Will resist non-militarily Will not resist
1978 40.4 6.8 12.8 9.3
1991 36.7 6.3 25.0 9.8
2000 43.3 6.9 19.0 8.9
2006 53.5 6.9 18.1 8.8
The percentage of those who responded that they will assist the SDF by some means if Japan is invaded has been increasing,

The limited space does not allow the writer to discuss details. Suffice it to say that this trend and recent changes in the international environment show that the North Korea and China factors are strongly at play.

A word on the implications the upgrading of JDA to MOD may have on Japan's security in the days ahead. Again to cite the same Cabinet Office survey, in 2006, 76.2% of the respondents chose 'Japan-US security treaty and SDF as in the past' as the means to maintain Japan's security, which is an increase from past results. In contrast, only 8.6% chose 'Abrogate the Japan-US treaty and rely solely on SDF'. An absolute majority of the Japanese people still see that the foundation of Japan’s security is in Japan-US cooperation.

"U.S.-Japan Alliance: Transformation and Realignment for the Future" that was adopted at the level of the ministers of foreign affairs and defense of Japan and the United States in October, 2005, says that 'To pursue the regional and global common strategic objectives' 'close and continuous policy and operational coordination at every level of government, from unit tactical level through strategic consultations' and 'information sharing' would be essential. In other words, direct cooperation between Japan's MOD and USDOD is anticipated in the bilateral security affairs. To the extent this is realized the MOD's say in Japan-US security matters will grow stronger and cause a relative weakening of the footing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The biggest challenge for Japan in the security area is how to deal with China and the Korean peninsula. The Xinhua News Agency of China carried a comment to the effect that the upgrading of JDA to MOD is 'the first step Japan is taking with a view to becoming a military power' and 'it may invite a sense of alarm among Asian countries.'

Japan has allowed the institutional distortion in its security to persist throughout the post-war period. That is now corrected. Japan has also discouraged its people from thinking about the nation's security.

It is hoped that the country will raise as quickly as possible people eauipped with the capability to engage in security discourse at the international level.

The writer is a professor of the National Defense Academy and former Ambassador to Iran.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

孫崎 享  / 防衛大学校教授

2007年 2月 6日





1975年14.3%、 97年21.1%、 2003年43.2%
2003年43.2%、 2006年45.0%

自衛隊支援 自衛隊に参加 非軍事抵抗  無抵抗
1978年  40.4  6.8     12.8  9.3
91年  36.7、 6.3     25.0  9.8
2000年  43.3  6.9     19.0  8.9
06年  53.5  6.9     18.1  8.8








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Defense Agency Upgraded to Defense Ministry