I. INTRODUCTION: MILITARY POLICY AND POLICYMAKING
II. POST-WAR MILITARY POLICY: PATTERNS ESTABLISHED
III. CONTEMPORARY MILITARY POLICY: PATTERNS CHANGE
IV. CONCLUSIONS: FUTURE PATTERNS
APPENDIX 1: FIGURES
APPENDIX 2: TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS
Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution, ratified shortly after the end of the Second World War, formally renounces war and war potential, and specifically forbids Japan from ever again maintaining land, sea, or air forces. Throughout the postwar period, many Asian leaders have clearly expressed opposition to a new Japanese military. Most important in terms of this study, postwar public opinion in Japan has been rather pacifist, and has largely opposed military growth. So how did Japan come to have 238,000 troops, 1,160 tanks, 15 submarines, 90 attack helicopters, and 440 combat airplanes? How did Japan's Self Defense Forces (SDF) become a larger army than Israel's? How did Japan become the second largest military spender in the world, with annual defense outlays of over $50 billion?1 How could the leaders and policymakers of a democratic country like Japan sustain defense increases over a 50-year period, even though public opinion consistently opposed these increases?
This essay will address this seeming paradox of democracy, and focus on the effects of Japanese public opinion on postwar and contemporary military policy. Some critics have argued that without a clear constitutional definition of "self-defense," public opinion is a major factor in the formation of Japanese defense policy.2 Others have argued that public opinion and public participation do not directly or significantly affect Japanese foreign policy.3 Still others have argued that the Japanese people may be anti-military in principle, but for various reasons, continue to elect politicians who created and supported the growth of the SDF.4 I will argue that public opinion from 1950 to 1990 did provide a constraint on military growth, but not enough of a restraint to completely halt the increases in Japan's real rate of military growth. There were two basic reasons that the paradox was able to exist, the first reason being Japan's postwar economic growth. As long as the economy kept growing, the Japanese people were able to overlook military spending, and would re-elect the politicians that made the economic growth possible. The second reason is the structural impediments to direct participation in Japanese politics. Japanese policymakers are not all elected officials, and those who were unelected bureaucrats were not as directly responsible to public opinion as elected officials. Furthermore, those who were elected were able to manipulate the political system to the extent that they were usually re-elected.
Until the end of the Cold War, the Japanese government was beholden to many pressures both to build its military and restrain its growth. Some critics have argued that the government has skillfully navigated a delicate path of maximum returns (in terms of foreign prestige and domestic defense and defense industry gains) for minimum risk and expenditure.5 On the one hand, there has been pressure, both external and internal, for incremental military growth. Externally, American pressure for gradual development has provided an intermittent but powerful incentive to maintain growth. Internally, political leaders wanted a degree of defense capability for the benefit of domestic defense (and domestic defense industries). On the other hand, Japanese leaders also faced intense pressure, both external and internal, for restraint of military growth. Externally, Asian memories of war atrocities led to pressures from Asian countries to suppress military spending, at the risk of straining diplomatic and economic relations. Internally, Japan's leaders had to be mindful of the overwhelming public opinion which opposed military growth, with a fair amount of cheerleading by the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) and other opposition parties, and much of the mainstream press. Despite the techniques politicians could employ to favor their re-election, the voters still maintain the ability to vote for a different candidate.
Therefore, Japan's government was forced to walk a very narrow path between high constraints on both sides of the equation of defense spending. Strictly speaking, there were other policy choices, but they were all fairly bad ones. Japan could have completely rearmed in the late 1950s, a rather foolish policy considering the strength of the Soviet and Chinese armies, these nations' still-burning hostility from the war, and the risks of expanding the Cold War arms race and its accompanying tensions even further. Alternatively, Japan could have adhered to a theory of "unarmed neutrality," and gambled with the very existence of the nation, considering the potent and dangerous Soviet threat (or at least the perception of that threat). A complete abandonment of military spending in the 1980s would have signaled the end of Japan's drive for world eminence or any chance of a permanent seat on the Security Council, an equally foolish and unlikely decision. A choice between one action which will entail difficult consequences with little benefit on one hand, and an action that will entail great advantage and little disadvantage on the other, is really not much of a choice to make at all. As the postwar period progressed and Japan negotiated its way between the high constraints, the more Japan's policy remained a relatively successful constant, the more the Japanese public came to accept it, and the less oppositional the Japanese were to policies of gradual military growth.6
As soon as the Cold War was over, a series of changes in the global political environment might have slowed Japan's military growth: the end of the Cold War, an economic recession, and a radical shakeup of LDP rule in the Diet in June 1993. Despite these changes, a slowdown is even more unlikely now than it was under the so-called "1955 system" of LDP dominance in the Diet, due to the greater uncertainty of the ruling coalition, and the Dietmembers' resulting fears of their own unemployment or loss of influence. The solid entrenchment of Japanese military policy is perhaps best represented by Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi, who as an opposition party member opposed military growth, and has, since becoming Prime Minister, changed his defense policy stance to reflect the gradual and consistent growth policies of the conservative LDP.
However, with the end of the Cold War came changes in the constraints
on military growth as well. Japanese public support of limited Japanese
participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (UNPKO) has risen
dramatically in the last few years. Increasingly, the Japanese public is
expecting Japan to take a larger role in international affairs, and Japan's
Asian neighbors seem to be supportive of Japan's tentative steps into cooperation
with UN peacekeeping missions. PKO participation has become a viable option
for the Japanese government-an option which should be considered favorably,
given Japan's drive for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security
Council, and the other trappings of international prestige.
What exactly is "representative democracy" in Japan? How much say does the general public have in everyday government? In a representative democracy, an elected official has two simultaneous roles to play. On one hand, he executes the will of the people, a "bottom-up" theory of representative democracy, with ideology originating at a grass roots level. For example, the passage of environmental protection legislation was spurred by public outcry after the corporate pollution in Minamata, and public opinion prevailed over the previously profitable corporate interests.7 On the other hand, an elected official uses his expertise to create policy that he believes to be necessary and appropriate, a "top-down" theory of representative democracy, with ideology originating from an elite government agency. For example, regulation of the Japanese oil industry during and after the oil shocks of 1973 was initiated by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), and involved a combination of the Diet, big business, and the bureaucracy colluding to set prices before the shock hit the grass roots level with full force.8 John Campbell argues that modern democratic governance is based on the premise that democracy, a bottom-up theory of ideology, and bureaucracy, a top-down theory of ideology, can work together to form a representative democracy.9
As in any modern democracy, certain policy sectors in Japan tend to be more influenced by the will of the people, and some tend to be more influenced by representative actors within government. There are sectors, and instances within sectors, where one method of rule is probably preferable to the other, and in most instances, there can be (and has been) open debate about which method is superior. For example, the finer details of a complicated health care policy are probably best left to those bureaucrats who fully understand its implications, but in a democratic nation, the decision whether or not to have nationalized health care should probably be left to the citizens of that country, who, after all, are paying for it. In the case of national defense, however, one might think that the whims of the populous should not be allowed to endanger the integral security of the nation. Without a strong defense of some kind, a nation is open to attack and subjugation, at which point public opinion becomes less important than survival. Public opinion does-and should-come into play in defense policy, but to what extent does it, and to what extent should it?
In order to answer how much public opinion can and should affect defense policy, I will first briefly examine how policy in Japan can be affected at all. Several models of Japanese government have been posited as answers to the question of what parties enjoyed the most influence within the postwar Japanese government. Chalmers Johnson argues that the bureaucracy has had a pre-eminent role in guiding Japan's postwar government, and the Liberal Democratic Party Diet members allowed the bureaucrats to formulate the policies that kept leading to LDP re-elections.10 Mark Ramseyer and Frances Rosenbluth take a very different stance from Johnson, arguing that the Diet is the supreme policy guiding body, setting the rules of the game, maintaining legislative veto power, and perhaps most importantly, controlling the contact networks that provide lucrative jobs for retiring bureaucrats in the business sector.11 Michio Muramatsu and Ellis Krauss describe Japan as being a state of "patterned pluralism," contending a cooperative balanced relationship between the majority legislative party and the bureaucracy, and positing that interest groups have a degree of access to the policymaking process.12
Others critics argue that the business world maintained a great deal of power. Indeed, the business community controlled most of the capital of postwar Japan, and until recently, Japan's cash-hungry developmentalism relied heavily on such funding for its own economic development. Although Richard Samuels argues that business and government interact in a system of "reciprocal consent," in which they each compromise to further their mutual goals,13 the business world still has many advantages. Due to business groupings, competition is lessened, and they can overcome the "prisoner's dilemma" of capitalist competition.14 Additionally, due to the complex distribution system, many Japanese companies are mutually supported and reinforced, while foreign companies find it difficult to compete, and sometimes combined with protectionist tariffs, this enables nascent Japanese industries (such as defense in the 1950s) the chance to compete on the domestic market. Most importantly, due to the capital resources of the industrial world, large businesses can afford to make large donations to political election campaigns, thus increasing the chances that politicians who just so happen to be sympathetic to large businesses will be elected. Such political and financial support can be seen in the power of the industrial world (defense industry included) to form its own interest groups to counteract widespread but ambiguously expressed public pacifism with focused and concrete contributions to, for example, pro-military politicians, as well as those who may be persuaded to become pro-military. This interpretation is part of the answer to the question of why unpopular policies of military spending were continually approved by a Diet that was directly accountable to the populace.
This paper will not attempt to answer which model of Japanese politics is the most accurate, but for the purposes of analyzing public opinion and its effects on defense policy, it is important to note that in the discussion of political power in a representative democracy, the "democracy" portion of that term can easily become lost. The above models disagree in many ways, but since their focus is primarily on the inter-relations of the so-called "iron triangle" of actors within industry, the bureaucracy, and the Diet, they tend to focus on the relative strengths and weaknesses of these powerful agencies, and under-analyze the effect of public opinion on their actions. Where do the people of Japan, the voting populace, fit into the picture? In terms of industry, labor unions in a capitalist society can be a direct check on the business world, but in postwar Japan, the labor unions have been relatively weak, especially in the face of highly organized management and the anti-unionist "corporate unions."15 The effects of popular opinion on the bureaucracy have been softened by the Japan's economic success. As John Campbell reminds us, "Japanese policy has been remarkable successful-what other government has done so well in delivering peace and prosperity to its citizens? Were it less so, and dissatisfaction more widespread, one might well find less deference to official pronouncements and more popular intervention into bureaucratic affairs."16 As in Muramatsu and Krauss' model, interest groups can organize and amplify the effects of public opinion on industry, the bureaucracy, or the Diet, and such interest groups generally feel as if they are successful at influencing policy.17 However, when larger interests are at stake, represented by more influential interest groups such as Keidanren and its Defense Production Committee, smaller interest groups with less tangible support are more likely to be ignored or overlooked.
The policymaking agent most able to be affected by the general public is the Diet itself, due to the power of the popular vote. But to what extent does voting actually affect policy in Japan? Ike Nobutaka argues for the notion of a "market model" of democracy, in which he cites Anthony Downs' assumptions that governments attempt to maximize political support by providing as much as possible in terms of service. The government therefore attempts to "discover some relationship between what it does and how citizens vote."18 If this were true in the case of Japan's 1955 system, the generally consistent voting patterns between 1955 and 1990 in favor of the LDP would indicate that the LDP was providing enough overall service to Japan that the Japanese public would continue voting for LDP candidates. The largest voter shift since 1955 came only recently, in 1993, in the midst of instability in LDP factions, repeated corruption scandals, and perhaps most importantly, a long and difficult recession.
If we assume complete freedom of information and choice in voting, the aggregate of voters placed primacy on Japan's ongoing economic development, which they favored, over Japan's ongoing military development, which they opposed. The public certainly had disagreements with certain policies, such as the sometimes unpopular US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty (MST) or usually unpopular Self Defense Forces. The opposition parties, especially the Japan Socialist Party and Japan Communist Party, were on the whole vociferously opposed to the MST and the SDF, and seemed to enjoy a degree of public support on these issues-one of the only areas in which public opinion was overwhelmingly with the opposition parties.19 The JSP was able to translate public support in these areas into enough seats in the Diet to maintain a viable political party, but partially because the average voter does not vote on defense issues alone, the opposition was never able to garner enough votes to gain a majority in the Lower House between 1955 and 1993. This pattern illustrates an important difference between the electoral politics of defense, and electoral politics in general: as long as Japan was growing economically stronger, the Japanese seemed to enjoy, or at least tolerate, the balance between the Diet, the bureaucracy, and the business community that helped Japan rise from its crushing defeat in the war. Therefore, the Japanese repeatedly voted to maintain the 1955 system of LDP dominance of the Diet, despite the LDP's unpopular defense policies.
There is another aspect of the explanation for LDP dominance in the 1955 system. Some critics have argued that the Japanese did not enjoy complete freedom of information and choice in voting under the 1955 system due to "unfair" or "skewed" electoral procedures such as gerrymandering and pork barrel politics. For example, rural voters, who were more likely to be LDP supporters (partially because of the abundance of farm subsidies and other protections) were generally over-represented by the electoral districting system.20 As this example shows, pork barreling abounds in Japan, perhaps best represented by Tanaka Kakuei's 30-year political career, in which he was constantly "channeling funds for a dazzling array of construction projects-bridges, schools, roads, and eleven tunnels (including the Kakuei Bridge and the Tanaka Tunnel)."21 Furthermore, as mentioned previously, the question of popular influence in policymaking through interest group participation can also work in favor of pro-defense organizations. For example, if a coalition of defense industry leaders forms an interest group which contributes significantly to the campaigns of certain elected officials, whether legally or not, those officials, who are more likely to be re-elected, might also be more likely to vote for pro-defense policies. Such structural impediments and monetary favors increase the chances of the incumbent winning re-election, and with these impediments, combined with the nation's growing economy, the LDP was able to push through some unpopular policies, such as moderate levels of defense spending, with relative impunity.
To the extent that public opinion did influence security and defense
policy, there is still much debate as to which entity was doing more influencing.
Were Japan's government officials influencing public opinion of defense
in order to further their own policy agendas? Were the leaders actually
leading, and not just following? Furthermore, did the people want leaders
to lead or follow? A national poll taken periodically between 1953 and
1968 asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statement "Everything
should be left up to political leaders." Ike argues that since the
percentage of people who disagree with this statement increases, there
was a "growing distrust of political leaders." However, in 1953,
only 38% disagreed with the statement, and that figure was only 44% in
1958,22 a crucial formative period
in Japan's postwar defense policy. Thus, during this period, a majority
of the national sample believed that the political leaders were essentially
trustworthy and policy should be left up to them. Considering that an average
of 60.2% of Japanese were uninformed or undecided on defense issues in
this same time period,23 it is
not surprising that the postwar pattern of defense spending could be established
so easily by the political leaders within the Japanese bureaucracy and
Diet. And once this pattern of spending was established, it was difficult
to change because of the high constraints on all sides.
Who were these "political leaders" responsible for defense
policy? Who are the other "players" in the defense policy arena?
In the bureaucracy, which has been responsible for writing over 80% of
the defense bills which have been enacted in the Diet,24
there are principally three ministries that deal with defense issues. The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is primarily responsible for the creation
and direction of Japan's foreign policy agenda, which must necessarily
include any considerations of external threats to Japan's national security.
MOFA is therefore interested in promoting policies that increase Japan's
security, although increasing Japan's security does not necessarily imply
an increase in Japan's actual defense forces. For MOFA to support too large
a military increase risked a destabilization of relations with not only
Asian countries who may have opposed a large Japanese military, but also
risked straining relations with the United States, which generally wanted
Japan to take more defensive responsibilities, but not so much that the
American military position in Asia would be compromised or threatened.
Under the broad aegis of MOFA is the Japan Defense Agency (JDA), the administrative
body responsible for the Self Defense Forces. Assuming a healthy amount
of rational self-interest, the JDA would like to see the survival and growth
of the Self-Defense Forces. Again, the JDA understands reasonable limits,
and realizes that advocating too speedy a rearmament would cause a loss
of credibility and support from other bureaucratic agencies, and the Diet.
The Ministry of Finance (MOF) is the primary body responsible for the
creation of the national budget, and is therefore greatly concerned with
the amount spent on defense. MOF would likely be among the first in line
to oppose radical increases in defense spending, if only because it would
lead to decreases in the amount of money MOF could allocate at its own
discretion, and consequently, its own influence. MOF's influence is primarily
over spending levels, though, and its influence is therefore limited in
areas such as the decision to send troops abroad for peacekeeping operations.25
The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is responsible
for overseeing Japan's industries, including defense industries, and the
importation of foreign-produced defenses. MITI enjoys a healthy degree
of defense spending, if that money is being spent on supporting and developing
domestic industry. MITI also encourages spending on technology with "spin-off"
capability, that is, military technology that can also be used to further
non-military commercial technologies for the further benefit of domestic
Within the Diet, a long period of LDP dominance created two basic camps:
the LDP, and everybody else. However, within both of these basic divisions,
many subdivisions remain. Within the LDP, what was a division between "hawks,"
those generally in favor of military development, and "doves,"
those generally opposed, has blended into a largely "realist"
center. Most of the LDP has come to support the incremental military growth
of Japan's postwar status quo in order to maintain a moderate defense capability,
satisfy the occasional American demands for defense increases, and mollify
Asian neighbors worried about resurgent Japanese militarism.26
In the opposition camp, the major party has been the Japan Socialist Party
(JSP), which was generally against increased defense spending and the MST,
and with the 1993 transfer to a coalition government, has generally come
to support the incremental military growth of Japan's postwar status quo,
for many of the same reasons as the LDP realists. However, elements of
the opposition, including some JSP members and other parties such as Kmeito,
were willing to compromise with the LDP hawks and realists on many postwar
defense issues in return for quantitative restraints which made LDP defense
plans more palatable to the opposition as a whole, such as the 1% of GNP
limit on defense spending.27
Mike Mochizuki argues that as of the 1980s, there were four major schools
of thought on Japanese defense within the different agencies of the Japanese
government. On one extreme, the "unarmed neutralists" favored
global economic development over any military development, and advocated
disarmament.28 On the other extreme,
the nationalistic "Japanese Gaullists" supported rearmament,
and favored a more equitable treaty relationship with the United States.
The more mainstream "political realists" wished to maintain the
US security guarantee, and feared Japan's vulnerabilities. The "military
realists" tended to favor closer US-Japan cooperation and "focus
frankly" on military security issues.29
A combination of political and military realists, described by Harrison
Holland as "gradualists," have provided the prevailing wisdom
in Japanese defense policy. The gradualists can be found in the bureaucracy
and the LDP, and they believe that "Japan must step up the pace of
rearmament in order to share the defense burden more equitably with the
United States, and in so doing act in a manner befitting Japan's growing
Other players in defense policymaking understandably include members of the defense industry and their supporting organizations. It seems obvious that companies like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries, two major defense contractors, were generally supportive of increased defense contracts that brought increase profits. Furthermore, industry alliances such as Keidanren (the Federation of Economic Organization) and its Defense Production Committee were vocal supporters of defense spending for the benefit of domestic industry, not to mention supporters of politicians who favored defense spending-sometimes in legal ways, and sometimes not.
The media has also had some influence over defense policy, with influential
and widely circulating daily newspapers like the Yomiuri Shinbun, the Asahi
Shinbun, and the Mainichi Shinbun generally critical of the nation's postwar
military buildup. The Yomiuri has shifted to greater support of Japanese
defense since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan renewed fears of
Soviet expansionism,31 and recently,
the Yomiuri even advocated revising the Constitution so as to explicitly
allow the use of Japanese troops in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.32
However, the media's influence over policy is indirect at best, and is
accomplished either through moral persuasion of officials directly, or
through persuasion of public opinion, which in turn has some power to persuade
elected officials with the vote.
With powerful agencies like MITI, MOFA, the LDP, and Keidanren lined
up to support Japan's incremental growth of defense spending, the general
public, a majority of which did not support the expansion of military spending,
had a large burden to overcome in order to achieve recognition for pacifist
goals. In a pure democracy, the public would have the final word over defense
policy. However, Japan is not a pure democracy, and the elite bureaucrats,
politicians, and industry leaders were instrumental in guiding spending
increases in Japan's defense policy through the postwar period despite
public opinion. While defense policy may have been less democratic than
many non-defense policies, this was partially because normal governmental
checks and balances did not apply as strongly to defense as some other
issues. The only one of the above governmental agencies that would consider
opposing moderate defense spending increases was the Ministry of Finance,
and as long as Japan's economy provided the adequate revenue for defense
spending, most all the influential parties in the political mainstream
of Japanese politics supported the political mainstream of Japan's postwar
In July of 1950, in the midst of pressures from America's entrance into
an increasingly bloody Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur implemented
a Japanese National Police Reserve (NPR) to help the Occupation forces
maintain Japan's public peace, with the hesitant cooperation of Yoshida
Shigeru and his cabinet, who probably had little choice in the matter.
The NPR began with a great deal of uncertainty about its methods, organization,
reasons for existence, and justification for existence under Japan's new
"peace Constitution" which was supposed to specifically outlaw
its existence. Although Yoshida had been known for his pacifism, he was
also known for his anti-communism, and under further pressure from the
United States for Japan to assume more of its defense responsibility, he
reluctantly accepted the military burden in return for sovereignty and
assurances of American protection,33
and came to favor a gradual approach to building Japan's defense capabilities.34
Yoshida was also known for his skill at achieving his political goals-his
change of heart on defense policy was also an attempt to unite conservative
parties to ensure that Japan's Socialist parties would not gain power,
as well as an effort to fight off a threat to his leadership from the conservative
camp's Hatoyama Ichiro.35 In
1953, Yoshida and Progressive Party chairman Shigemitsu Mamoru agreed to
change the Police Reserve into the Self Defense Forces, with the additional
support of the conservative Japan Liberal Party. The Yoshida cabinet also
created the Japan Defense Agency (JDA) as the administrative controlling
body of the SDF.36 Although Yoshida
lost the premiereship to Hatoyama in 1954, the Self Defense Forces had
become a solid point around which the Liberal Democratic Party, formed
in 1955, could rally against opposition from the also newly created Japan
Various court cases were attempted to prove the SDF was unconstitutional,
but they generally failed in preventing military growth, as Japan's court
system generally accepted the argument that a defensive system alone does
not count as "war potential," and therefore, as long as the SDF
was a defensive unit only, it was constitutionally acceptable.37
There were various public demonstrations against the SDF between 1954 and
the renewal of the Security Treaty in 1960, but the level of actual public
opposition is difficult to gauge. As Susan Pharr points out, while Japan
was renegotiating the MST in 1957, Yoshida, attempting to keep Japanese
troop levels and commitment low in order to reap the maximum political
benefits from the general pacifism of the electorate, while simultaneously
trying to maintain an American military presence in Asia (and Japan) for
defense purposes, secretly stirred up demonstrations against remilitarization
to give the impression of stic unrest, so that he could gain an advantage
in the negotiations.38 In any
case, Yoshida probably did not have to try very hard to stir up opposition
to Japanese remilitarization. Many Japanese were as yet undecided about
their opinions of the Self Defense Forces, and as of 1956, only 17% of
the public felt that the SDF, relatively small as it was already, should
However, in the late 1950s and 1960s, the SDF was strengthened anyway,
with the Japanese government spending an approximate average of 1.2% of
GNP per year on defense between 1958 and 1967. Maeda Tetsuo argues that
four conditions allowed the SDF to grow quickly in this time period. First,
there was American pressure for an "Asian military police force"
in return for economic aid and guarantee of defense should Japan be attacked
(which required the US to maintain military forward position in Japanese
territory, another benefit for the Americans fighting the Cold War). Second,
the political stability provided by LDP rule allowed for long-term military
growth policies to be designed, implemented, and carried to term. Third,
a changing of generations in the SDF led to a new generation of military
officials with little or no memory of World War II, and thus, no paralyzing
self-consciousness or guilt about Japan's wartime role. Lastly and most
importantly, the radical economic growth during the period allowed Japan
to drastically increase defense spending without too much public backlash.40
There were some significant counterexamples to the trend of public tolerance.
In 1960, there was a great deal of public backlash surrounding the agreement
upon a new security treaty with the United States. Riots sparked by students
in Tokyo, including the death of one Tdai student, were a sign that the
security arrangement was not as popular as the LDP would have liked. There
was widespread popular dissatisfaction with the SDF springing partially
from feelings of pacifism among the Japanese, and partially because the
Japanese resented the US military bases which remained in Japan. The LDP
publicly favored the new security treaty for two basic reasons. First,
under the old treaty, the US had no clear obligation to defend Japan in
the case of an attack, which left Japan potentially vulnerable, an issue
which the new treaty would redress. Second, the old treaty still allowed
America to help quell domestic unrest, a hangover from the Occupation that
was seen as infringing upon Japanese sovereignty.41
If politicians' private reasons for supporting the treaty differed, the
differences are naturally more difficult to state, but the newly empowered
and fast growing defense industry probably had some influence on policymaking,
both in terms of their contribution to Japan's booming economy, and their
contributions to LDP candidates.42
Whatever the reasons, the LDP accurately believed that the costs of the
new treaty in terms of social unrest would be temporary, and therefore,
the long-term benefits would be worthwhile. In 1960, Prime Minster Ikeda
Hayato and his cabinet issued the Income Doubling Plan, which championed
redistribution of wealth in the context of economic growth, a plan "designed
explicitly to quiet political protest" regarding the LDP's handling
of the MST issue.43
The riots eventually ended, but public opposition to the security arrangement
did not. Under public pressure, as well as pressure from MOF due to an
environment of increasing fiscal austerity, a military spending ceiling
of 1% of GNP was instituted as a spending limit in 1976 under the National
Defense Program Outline. The limit lasted until 1987, where spending rose
to 1.004%, peaking at 1.013% of GNP in 1988. In terms of actual spending,
breaking the 1% barrier by thirteen-thousandths was insignificant. However,
the 1% ceiling was of some symbolic significance, and was broken only after
public support for spending levels reached a majority of Japanese. Once
the 1% policy was in place, informally as early as 1963, it remained entrenched,
largely due to the high constraints against altering military policy.
The role of the SDF, sketchily defined at its inception, became more
clear as the Cold War progressed. Japan was seen by Japanese and American
policymakers alike as a bastion against Communism in Asia, and the SDF
was supposed to protect not only Japan's capitalist industries, but also
the safety of Japan's strategic geographical position. The Communist threats
(although never explicitly stated until the 1980s) emanated from the Soviet
Union, especially given the history of the Kurile Island dispute and Soviet
expansionist tendencies, and China, especially given the potential for
Chinese military access to waterways vital to Japan's national interests.
In order to defend the Pacific against all of these potential threats to
regional and global capitalism and democracy, it was in the best interests
of Japan and the United States not only to maintain an American presence
in Japan, but to have Japan develop a defensive capability of its own.
Even without the benefit of historical hindsight, it seems doubtful
that the SDF could have prevented an attack on Japan from the vastly larger
Soviet or Chinese armies. However, the prevailing theory in the JDA was
that a small military was all Japan would need to stave off a minor attack
during the brief period before military aid arrived from the United States.
In case of a world war, America and its allies would also be engaged with
the Communist armies, and therefore, Japan would not have to defend itself
against the entire Communist world, but merely the small portions of the
Communist military that were not being directed against the US and its
allies.44 This theory was explicitly
stated in 1976, when the Japanese Defense White Paper details goals of
180,000 troops in the army, 60 surface vessels in the navy, and 350 fighters
in the air force, all in order to be able to repel "limited aggression."
The Cold War paradigm did not significantly change after 1976, with 1980s
military buildups both by the US and the USSR presumably offsetting each
other. Therefore, it could be argued that since the Cold War situation
did not change significantly, there was no reason to significantly alter
military policy, either. Until the end of the Cold War, the prevailing
JDA theory could be applied continuously: the SDF would only have to operate
as a temporary repellent against a minor Communist attack, until the Americans
Pressures from the United States have ebbed and flowed over the course
of the postwar period, but the general trend of American pressure was for
the LDP to continue its policies of gradually taking responsibility for
its own defense, while at the same time, maintaining America's role as
a major player in Asian defense. One general example of American support
for the LDP was the monetary support for LDP rule. The CIA spent millions
of dollars throughout the postwar period in "contributions" to
LDP members,45 indicating that
at the very highest levels of US policymaking, America supported the LDP,
and at least implicitly, its policies of military growth. More directly,
United States pressures were instrumental in the primary development of
the SDF, and the US military presence has been a significant factor in
the formulation and implementation of Japanese defense policies throughout
the postwar period.46 In the
1950-55 defense policy debates, the Pentagon, embroiled in the Korean War,
was exerting pressure for Japanese domestic defense production, which MITI
and the Keidanren's Defense Production Committee (DPC) welcomed, due to
the industrial development that American pressure stimulated.47
Although US pressure to assume greater military responsibility may have
subsided somewhat during the 1960s and 1970s, the pressure was renewed
with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979,48
and continued to build into the Reagan Administration and the heightened
Cold War tensions of the 1980s. The Reagan administration, attempting to
relieve some of the American military and financial load in Asia, applied
pressure on Japan to assume a greater share of the defense burden. In 1981,
Prime Minister Zenko Suzuki pledged to President Ronald Reagan in that
Japan would develop the necessary means to defend its sea lanes out to
1,000 miles from shore.49 Some
Americans were beginning to feel that since Japan's economic growth was
partially due to its low defense spending (which undoubtedly did contribute
to overall growth), Japan was being a "free rider" on American
defense guarantees, and Reagan's pressure on Japan was an attempt to stand
up to the Japanese and the free rider mentality (partially to bolster his
own domestic political support). Hisahiko Okazaki takes an extreme view
when he writes that as of 1986, the US wanted Japan to maintain "sizable
fighting capability" which can "survive a massive preventative
attack."50 Although the
American pressure was never for total Japanese rearmament, largely because
such a policy would have risked America's military leadership position
in Asia, American pressure for gradual military growth was quite strong
at times in the postwar period.
Why would American pressure have any effect on Japanese governmental policy? First, Japan had to cooperate with America on security issues due to the perception (and possible reality) of a Soviet threat to Japan's integral defense. Second, some bureaucratic agencies, such as MOFA and MOF, greatly benefited from better American relations, and thus had an extra incentive to design policy, or help design policy, which would lead to better cooperation with America. For MOFA, better foreign relations meant more prestige for the branch of government that brought about those relations, and possibly greater trust and increased latitude for future foreign negotiations. For MOF, better American trade relations brought increased trade, and increased trade brought increased profits for Japan's corporations-and increased tax revenue for MOF to allocate. Considering that more than a few Japanese perceived that the driving force behind the growth of the SDF was American pressure, the defense policymakers in the bureaucracy and Diet were able to escape some of the pressure of daily public opinion. On the other hand, precisely because some Japanese thought that SDF growth was American-led, the Japanese government could not have expected that popular distrust of the SDF would be reduced by the rhetoric of the necessity of national defense during the Cold War.51
Given the American lack of commitment in Korea, then Indochina, it was
no surprise that Japanese leaders might have been cynical about America's
commitment to defend Japan if necessary. The LDP "hawks" thus
had a basic rationale behind building defense during this era: as during
the entire Cold war period, some insurance against a Communist threat would
reduce the possibility of an invasion of Japan. The Mutual Security Treaty
was supposed to ensure that American force would provide the bulk of this
insurance, but LDP leaders may have been hesitant to gamble the future
of their country on a promise that America did not seem to maintain with
its other allies. Not only was the US government beholden to domestic public
opinion, as demonstrated in the Vietnam War era, there was understandable
doubt regarding the American willingness to risk a full-scale nuclear war
on Japan's behalf should it become necessary for Japan to invoke the promise
of an American "nuclear umbrella." For the most part, however,
LDP leaders tended away from publicly advocating this line of analysis,
for fear of angering US officials, or frightening the Japanese public.
Although building a strong national defense for the sake of guarding against
external threat is usually a popular and effective piece of political rhetoric,
Japan's leadership was in the ironic position that the more strongly they
called for a native domestic defense, the more they would be perceived
by the Japanese public as preaching that the United States could not be
trusted to honor its commitments under the MST.
Although many Diet members were hesitant to become outspoken militarists
for fear of public backlash, the bureaucracy was not directly responsible
to regular plebiscites, and was therefore more insulated from the direct
thrust of public opinion. Thus, MOFA and JDA were able to design foreign
policy that would prepare for the abovementioned limited engagement scenarios,
and as long as Japan's economy continued to grow, MOF allowed for their
funding. The LDP, for its part, was able to provide enough favors to its
constituency to allow re-election, and was able to compromise within the
Diet in order to appease other parties enough to stem major opposition.
Additionally, the possibility of spin-off technology provided an incentive
to domestic industry for production and profit, and domestic industry,
in turn, provided a powerful incentive for LDP members to vote pro-defense.
One factor in gauging "political support" is analyzing election
campaign funding, and the LDP certainly had plenty. As Gerald Curtis points
out, the public and private funding for the LDP, legal and otherwise, was
substantial. Each candidate needed huge sums of money to fund his own political
machine for election and re-election, and politicians who were willing
to support military spending tended to require more money than those who
did not, in order to overcome the potential public opposition to their
platforms, and the possibility that the public might reward more pacifist
candidates with more votes. Such large sums of money were more easily found
in the hands of powerful industrial leaders than pacifist interest groups.
The Lockheed scandal may have been only the tip of the iceberg in what
Curtis calls a "postwar pattern of corruption." 52
Although precise figures would understandably be difficult to obtain, it
is not difficult to surmise that defense manufacturers were often eager
to support politicians in the name of a strong Japanese defense-and in
the name of profits. The politicians delicately walked their own personal
tightropes, between alienating deep-pocketed defense manufacturers with
opposing military growth, and alienating the voters with pro-military policies.
The powerful incentives provided by the defense industry, the possibility
of an actual military threat, the American pressure for defense increases,
and the ability to pass some unpopular policies with little risk of losing
a re-election campaign, all combined to make politicians less responsive
to public opinion on defense issues.
From the beginning of the postwar period, the war-torn Japanese people
generally opposed remilitarization, but with the progression of Japan's
"economic miracle," and the perceived threat of the Soviet Union,
the Japanese slowly began to accept the US-Japan defense partnership, if
not the Self Defense Forces, for a variety of reasons. One reason the public
comes to support spending levels on the SDF lies primarily with Maeda's
argument regarding Japan's rapid economic growth, which mollified many
of the agents in opposition to defense policies. MITI saw that the defense
industry was booming, and furthermore, technology imported from the United
States could be used for civilian purposes as well, further feeding economic
growth with higher outputs for a company's research and development investments.
With the economy booming, MOF was under less pressure to tighten defense
spending, and even when Japan entered a period of relative fiscal austerity
in the 1980s, defense was one of the few items that escaped the budget
ax. The small amount relative to GNP spent on defense helped pacify MOF
officials, and the large amount in pure yen figures spent on defense helped
satisfy JDA officials and the defense industry. The general public, encouraged
by Japan's re-emergence as a world power, may have disliked military spending,
but the economic miracle was such that few wanted to radically change the
system, and cut off Japan's military nose to spite its economic face.
Another reason the Japanese public accepted the buildup is that, like
the LDP leadership, there was a perception that the Mutual Security Treaty
may not have protected Japan in case of a conflict. Although the only threat
explicitly stated by the Japanese Defense White Papers was the Soviet Union
in the 1980s, the Cold War perception of a Communist threat seemed to be
a cause for alarm in the Japanese mind. The overall fear of war rises and
falls throughout the last twenty years, but the general trend is that a
majority of Japanese feel there is some danger of a war, with fears peaking
in the mid-1980s, the Cold War's most tense moments since the Cuban Missile
Crisis (see figure 1). In 1986, 60.9% of respondents
said "there is a danger" or "there may be a danger"
that Japan would be involved in a war.53
Between 1978 and 1988, only about 52% of the Japanese believed the SDF
would strongly defend Japan in the event of an attack.54
Japanese faith in the SDF was so little that only 28.3% said they would
"support the SDF," in the event of a war, and only 3.6% said
they would join the SDF. Instead, 23% of respondents opted for "passive
resistance," and 22.7% said they would "flee to a safe location."55
Only around 29.7% of Japanese thought that the MST would be "useful,"
and 39.1% said it would be "somewhat useful." These figures reflect
that there was not a great deal of trust in the American ability-or willingness-to
respond to a Japanese military crisis should the need arise. As the Japanese
had little faith in the SDF, and only a little more faith in the American
response, the idealistic pacifism of the early postwar years begins to
fade slightly, as the public began to accept that the SDF may have been
an important and necessary factor in Asian security, especially if there
were to be some kind of military conflict.
Overall, the Japanese impression of the SDF was improving throughout
the latter half of the postwar period, albeit slowly, grudgingly, and with
some exceptions. The number of people who had a good or somewhat good impression
of the SDF rose from 58.9% in 1969 to 76.7% in 1988, with about two-thirds
of those figures being in the "somewhat good" category (see figure
2).56 With the benchmark
of defense spending approximately steady at 1% of GNP between 1969 and
1988, the trends in opinions regarding Japanese spending on the SDF reflect
that as more Japanese were able to decide their position on defense spending,
more came to accept the status quo.57
The general trend over the period was that support of current spending
levels, already a plurality by 1969, increased to a simple majority by
1988. The number of respondents who favored or opposed growth varied slightly
and inversely, dependent on relatively minor events which influenced public
opinion in the short-term. But over the long run, the combined groups of
those who favored growth and those who opposed growth comprise a roughly
steady figure, whereas the number of respondents who are undecided drops
steadily from 22% to 12% over the 1969 to 1988 period, and the number of
those who support the status quo rises steadily from 39% to 59% (see figure
So how much effect did the public really have on the military policy
of the 1955 system? The public certainly acted as a check on growth, and
probably would not have allowed politicians to spend a great deal more
on defense than they were, even though MOF was already providing a significant
check on spending levels. Politicians in the LDP were able to compromise
with the opposition parties enough to defuse a degree of criticism, both
from the opposition parties, and from the public. Overall, as long as the
LDP was seen as "reasonable" in its compromises, and as long
as the LDP kept providing the services that the public wanted, opposition
parties and public opinion did not provide enough of a constraint to reduce
In order to effectively pursue a grass-roots ideology or policy, the
voters must first make their voices heard. Two of the most common ways
of doing so are public demonstrations and "political support"
for election campaigns. In terms of popular demonstrations, as mentioned
previously, there were massive protests, even riots, in 1960 regarding
the agreement upon a new security treaty with the United States. However,
the riots eventually ended, and in order to be truly effective, demonstrations
must convince leaders that the people's voices should be heard above all
other influences. The outside pressure to which the LDP was listening was
mostly American, which not-so-coincidentally agreed with their own views
of an effective defense policy. For example, despite public opinion and
public demonstrations against the Vietnam war, Foreign Minister Shiina
and Prime Minister Sato supported the US in February 1965, evidence that,
when in conflict, courting US favor was more important than satiating Japanese
voters, for the reasons enumerated previously of the advantages of better
US-Japan relations.58 However,
Pharr argues the Japanese government performed various different "self-containment
initiatives," staying at the periphery of American war opinion and
policy, in order to "appease domestic critics." The critics to
whom she refers are unnamed, but we can assume that she is discussing opposition
parties in the Diet, or the general public, who may have expressed their
opposition to the government's pro-American handling of the Vietnam War
by voting for those opposition parties.
Strong public opposition to militarization has caused many politicians
to shun militaristic rhetoric for fear that their positions would be electoral
suicide. Most postwar politicians did not dare discuss the SDF, let alone
publicly propose increasing their strength, and instead stuck to more familiar
and safe ideological ground, such as calling for an economically stronger
Japan. As Martin Weinstein relates,
"Within a few months of taking office in 1983, Prime Minister Nakasone
met with President Reagan and clearly reaffirmed...his intention to enlarge
Japan's role in mutual defence arrangements. Moreover, in numerous public
appearances in Japan, Prime Minister Nakasone expressed this same forthright,
outspoken approach on defence policy. In December 1983, he called a General
Election. In that election, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost 32
seats or 38 seats, depending on whether the Liberal Club was considered
an independent party or an LDP faction. In either case, this was the party's
worst election setback since it was established in 1955....After two and
a half years of playing down defence issues...Nakasone called the July
1986 General Election. The LDP gained 50 seats....the political message
in Japan is too clear and strong to be ignored."59
Weinstein's analysis oversimplifies the elections gains and losses by
over-emphasizing military issues, evidenced by the fact that the 1983 election
losses ended the service careers of LDP hawks and doves alike.60
However, the 1983 and 1986 elections were perceived by many politicians
seeking election and re-election as a reminder that militaristic rhetoric
may cost the party seats in the Diet. Michael Chinworth cites as further
evidence the 1990 defeat of a Diet member who, although a "leading
internationalist and an articulate spokesman for Japan's defense policies,"
lost his bid for reelection because he was perceived as "ignoring
local constituent issues while establishing his reputation in the international
affairs arena."61 As long
as LDP candidates perceived that their seats could be endangered by focusing
too intently on military affairs, the party (as well as factions within
the party) was likely to support candidates who publicly avoided controversial
military issues, so as to expand and consolidate LDP power.
However, almost forty years of LDP rule indicates that military support
was not the primary issue in the minds of the average voter, and the public
continued to use its vote to support LDP candidates. Even though Weinstein's
arguments assume that military issues were the pre-eminent reason, if not
the only reason, for the LDP electoral setbacks, if military advocacy is
a factor in re-election chances (which it surely is, to some extent), other
factors, such as Japan's continued economic growth, played a more significant
role in the continuing re-election of the LDP. In fact, if one were to
compare a graph of party election results with actual defense spending,
the results are surprisingly noncorrelative, despite the relationship between
pro-defense rhetoric and election results that Weinstein outlines (see
If military spending had a direct effect on elections, the two lines in
the figure would be inversely proportional-when one went up, the other
would go down. By comparing the lines of LDP election and military spending,
we can see that if there is any rough relation at all, the proportion is
more directly proportional than inversely so, providing evidence that military
spending itself had little effect on electoral results.
Partially buffered from having military opinions affect their electoral
chances, some politicians freely expressed militaristic rhetoric, and some
were actually successful based on their association with Japan's re-emerging
military. For example, former SDF bureaucrat Genda Minoru was elected to
the House of Councillors in 1974 largely due to support from the SDF, various
organizations of former military men, and several right-wing groups.63
Genda openly expressed his beliefs that Japan should amend its Constitution,
rebuild its military, and prepare for the Soviet threat of invasion.64
Others openly calling for military expansion include former JDA director
Kanemaru Shin, who founded the Center for Strategic Studies of Japan (CSSJ),
and claimed in CSSJ's 1981 treatise "This is how to defend Japan"
that Japan should increase defense spending between 0.1 and 0.3% of GNP
per year, to reach 2.5% by 1986.65
For most politicians that have aspired to the top ranks of their parties,
however, militaristic or nationalistic rhetoric was to be shunned for fear
of increasing tensions with East Asian neighbors, or the possible electoral
repercussions. Many of the so-called "defense hawks," including
Prime Minister Nakasone, have pretended to be in the political and military
mainstream, in order to maintain their position within the party and Diet.66
Thus, many pro-defense politicians have couched rhetoric of military growth
in terms of "what is best for Japan," and have been careful to
advocate a globally oriented nationalism. This logic claims that an expanded
military (a phrase said sotto voce) was in Japan's best interest in becoming
a global partner (a phrase to be shouted aloud). In a typical example,
LDP Diet member Mihara Asao said that "the Self Defense Forces are
meant to ensure peace. We will only maintain the minimum defense forces
necessary for our own protection."67
Overall, it seems that economic results, and the subsequent complications
of economic growth such as pollution control and welfare plans, were more
influential issues for the postwar Japanese public than military spending.
Perhaps Japanese politicians had to work a little harder to convince the
people of the relative unimportance of military issues, or had to provide
services that were sufficient enough to counteract possible backlash against
military spending policies. Regardless of what methods the LDP chose, there
is no doubt that during the postwar period, their policies, as well as
their cooperation with the bureaucracy, were highly successful at getting
LDP members re-elected. Japan's political leadership navigated this path
until the end of the Cold War, when the world changed, suddenly and drastically.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mikhail Gorbachev's declarations
of glasnost, and the eventual breakup of the Soviet Union, defensive strategies
around the world had to be re-examined. American policy no longer dealt
with "containment" of the Communist threat, but rather began
to focus on cooperative efforts such as the Gulf War for the good of the
international community.68 The
superpowers signed treaties to reduce nuclear weapons, and to divert existing
weapons from their current targets. Theories of peace enforced by mutually
assured destruction were changing as military strategy was transformed
from calculating the odds of winning a nuclear war back into the field
of conventional arms skirmishes. The indiscriminate bombings of 1940s Tokyo
and 1970s Cambodia were transformed (in theory) into the precision air
raids of the Gulf War and NATO air strikes on Serbian missile sites in
conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.
Economically, too, the world was changing. The immense amounts of defense
spending defense in the Reagan years had added tremendously to America's
national debt, and the Bush administration moved to cut defense spending.
Soviet spending, too, collapsed with the rest of the Soviet economy. Many
nations sank into a recession which brought renewed calls for cutting defense
spending, even Japan, which already had a relatively low rate of spending.
The recession made it more difficult for agencies such as the JDA to defend
spending levels, especially given the pressures from MOF for a balanced
budget. Some critics, such as Kurisu Hiro'omi, believed that that since
Japan's pattern of gaining international prestige had been up until that
point primarily economic and very successful, Japan should dismantle the
Self Defense Forces, and pursue its previously stated goals of economic
despite all the political and economic changes, Japan's defense policy
survived the first two years of the post-Cold War world with only slightly
lower rates of growth, with a relatively larger reduction in the growth
rate occurring in 1992. Overall, since 1990, year-on-year growth in defense
spending had been around 2%, despite the recession.70
With the apparent demise of the Soviet threat, in a world of such drastic
military change, why did military spending remain relatively constant?
Mike Mochizuki argues that "with the end of the Cold War, the regional
security environment seems to be more, not less, threatening to Japan,"
and raises questions of the reversion of Hong Kong to the People's Republic
of China, and the unsettled status of Taiwan as potential problems for
the Japanese.71 MOFA also discusses
many other possible post-Cold War threats to Japanese security, including
the issue of the Kurile Islands, the South China Sea issue, and the unstable
situation in the Korean Peninsula, particularly North Korea's attempts
at developing nuclear weapons capability.72
Francis Fukuyama and Kongdan Oh point out that after a possible reunification,
the combined size of the North and South Korean armed forces would be more
than ten times the size of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, a disparity
that could raise potentially dangerous misunderstandings if not handled
properly.73 For all these dangers
in East Asia alone, Japan needs to maintain the ability to defend itself
and keep regional peace if necessary, at least until American military
aid can arrive, assuming that it will. These military scenarios are all
fairly unlikely, but if just one should arise, and the Japanese are unprepared
to deal with it, the effects could be disastrous, certainly to the public
impressions of the Diet leadership and MOFA, if not to Japan itself.
A recent example of recurring tensions was a minor conflict in the Soya
Strait, which separates Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido from Russia's
Sakhalin Island. In an incident that is not completely isolated or unique,
Russian border patrols, which have been intensified recently in the southern
Kurile islands, seized two Japanese fishing vessels accused of poaching
octopus in Russian waters, after firing on the boats and wounding one of
the captains.74 Although the
incident was resolved with little tension, it serves as a reminder that
the danger of a conflict in the Kurile Islands is always present, and considering
Russia's willingness to send military forces into Chechnya to defend its
national unity and interests, there is some precedent for a territorial
conflict with Russia.
However, even some hawkish critics like Hisahiko Okazaki believe that despite the territorial issues and other differences, the actual threat of war was not significant, even at the height of the Cold War,75 and tensions are not as high now as they were then. The Korean situation, including questions of North Korean nuclear capabilities and eventual reunification, seems to be progressing peaceably, if slowly, with help from American diplomacy. Friction between China and Taiwan seems to be increasing (with help from American diplomacy),76 but for economic reasons, it is unlikely that the conflict will progress from words to bullets in the foreseeable future. Economic and trade relationships were, and are, too important to jeopardize over an issue as relatively insignificant (in practical terms) as the Kurile Islands. Of course, trade issues have not always prevented conflicts, and have actually been the cause of various wars throughout history. However, strong economic bonds have created an enormous disincentive for Asian military entanglements, especially for large economic partners like Japan, Russia, South Korea, and China.
The most likely situation for conflict in East Asia is the territorial
dispute in the South China Sea over the Spratly Islands, mostly because
of the dual economic importance of the region. Because of its wealth of
natural resources, both discovered and as-yet-untapped, the Spratlys are
hotly contested among several Asian nations, including China, Vietnam,
the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia. Also, since many shipping
routes from the Middle East travel in the South China Sea, including oil
shipping lanes vital to Japan, any conflict in the area would undoubtedly
provoke Japan's attention, as a potential peacemaker if nothing else. Should
a conflict between any two of the above countries erupt, Japan may feel
pressure to intervene in order to settle the conflict quickly, and protect
its invaluable oil routes. Although this scenario is also unlikely, it
demonstrates the necessity of cooperative action in East Asia. MOFA understands
these possibilities well, and has changed its post-Cold War foreign policy
from containment of Communism to "cooperation and coordination"
in Asia, such as Japan's recent moderation of multilateral talks to alleviate
the tension in the South China Sea, and the bilateral Sino-Japan security
dialogue that began in 1993.77
Because the above possibilities for conflict are remote, the defense of the Japanese islands is not as immediate a military concern as the question of the extent of SDF participation in ameliorating some of the conflicts currently raging in other areas of the world. The debate over whether or not the SDF can be deployed as part of United Nations Peacekeeping Operations is not new to the Japanese,78 but post-Cold War Japan has been sharply criticized for its perceived lack of participation in UNPKO. In MOFA's words, Japan has recently become "keenly aware of the need not merely to implement financial and material cooperation," and former Prime Minister Murayama has maintained that "the SDF's UN role must be extended beyond giving help to refugees."79
American pressure for Japan to take charge of its own defense, although
perhaps not as intense as during the Reagan years, remained high during
the post-Cold War period. As Martin Weinstein noted in 1991, "Americans
have repeatedly called for greater Japanese defense efforts and more burden
sharing, with very little effect."80
Former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Manning asked recently, "Until
when should the world's largest debtor nation defend the world's largest
creditor nation?"81 Jonathan
Pollack argues that although the United States still wishes to maintain
a leadership role, it "expects its core security partners to assume
a larger role in the alliance process," and the "circumscribed
nature" of contributions from Tokyo has been "inappropriate to
an alliance tie of such profound importance."82
Richard Halloran goes so far as to say that America not only wants to call
the shots, it already does, and in the foreseeable future, "Japan's
vital decisions will most likely be made in Washington rather than in Tokyo."83
Although Halloran's comment exaggerates American influence, partially due
to a r84ecession, America has decreased its troop strength in Asia and
called on Japan to take up some of the slack.84
For its part, Japan is attempting to develop a moderate military capability
based strictly on self-defense, and officials in MOFA realize that it is
important for Japan to "make maximum efforts in this area, in order
to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the Japan-US Security Arrangements."85
However, some critics have argued that the changes that the US is demanding
after the end of the Cold War, such as increased participation in UNPKO,
are far different from America's Cold War demands, and Japan is ill equipped
to handle the change in defense paradigms. Masaru Tachibana has argued
that "Japan's ruling party has never developed a principle that could
replace the Cold War agenda."86
At the height of the Cold War, one of the reasons the Japanese tended
to criticize Tokyo's military planning was the fear of an increased likelihood
of being drawn into a conflict, possibly leading to a "world war scenario."87
But after the end of the Cold War, the different security paradigm was
bound to have some effect on views of defense issues. The new focus of
defense-related activity was the United Nations instead of the binary opposition
of the US and USSR, and with the likelihood of a "world war"
diminished, the role of the SDF changed from a unit that was designed to
temporarily repel a small-scale Communist invasion to being a unit that
could defend foreigners in a foreign land. The new focus on multinational
defense efforts had a profound effect on public attitudes toward the military.
Japan's efforts to improve its peacekeeping image are directed partially
at Japan's quest for a Security Council seat, a quest made explicit by
Foreign Minister Yohei Kono in a speech to the United Nations on September
17, 1994.88 However, Kono also
stated in that speech that Japan should not be required to take any part
in any international military activities in order to gain that seat. He
repeated this position in a July 1995 statement in which he declared that
there were some military actions which Japan could not take:
"If the international community regards Japan as unqualified to
be a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council because of
such constraints, then we would accept it. However, actions each permanent
member of the Security Council will take are determined by itself, and
definitely not imposed by the international community. Therefore, it is
the view of the government that Japan will determine its actions in accordance
with its own ideals."89
The goal of a permanent seat on the Security Council was lauded by the
Yomiuri Shinbun, which argued in an editorial that the position would "not
only serve its national interests; it will also help to make the UN more
democratic and strengthen its organization."90
However, many newspaper editorials questioned Japan's ability to gain a
permanent seat, considering current military attitudes. The Asahi Shinbun,
reflecting an ideological difference from the Yomiuri, observed that "many
people are concerned that as a permanent Security Council member Japan
would find it difficult to avoid participation in military activities on
grounds of constitutional constraints." The Mainichi Shinbun, observing
that the Security Council is where decisions on UN military action are
made, asked "How can Japan ask other nations to take up arms while
it sits on the sidelines?" Even the more conservative Yomiuri argued
that "it is unreasonable in the light of international common sense
that Japan should attach strings to its bid for permanent membership."
The chances of attaining a permanent seat, although dependent upon many
other factors, such as UN politics, will certainly increase if Japan is
perceived as doing its share of peacekeeping activity.92
As was observed by Joseph Nye, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense
for International Security, if Japan wants a Security Council seat, it
would have to increase its role in the "major business of the Security
Council" such as peacekeeping. "The inability to provide personnel
for the Persian Gulf operation and the subsequent failure of the first
peacekeeping bill in the Diet make many countries skeptical of whether
Japan merited a role in the Security Council."93
Although some nations, such as the US, have already indicated support for
a Japanese seat, Japan faces an uphill battle in convincing some members
of the international community that it can accept the responsibility of
peacekeeping participation which those nations feel is imperative to Security
Partially because of the efforts of the Japanese government to separate
PKO participation and Security Council membership, the Japanese were (in
the words of Joseph Nye) "totally unprepared psychologically"
for participation in the Gulf War conflict.94
Ezra Vogel points out that "when the Gulf crisis erupted, Japan had
not yet reached a consensus as to whether there were any circumstances
that would justify sending troops abroad. The difficulty of achieving a
consensus was compounded by Japan's institutional structures and the political
position of Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu."95
Kaifu's relative weakness meant that, unlike the LDP's abilities to maneuver
around domestic opposition in the postwar period, he was unable to force
a position past constraining factors such as opposition from the JSP and
the general public.
Japan contributed no troops to the multinational force in the Gulf,
relying instead on what US Secretary of State James Baker derisively called
"checkbook diplomacy." Baker's infamous accusation brought meek
mumbling of "constitutional restraints" from some LDP leaders
like Kaifu, and Japan was greatly embarrassed by the international scorn
of its Gulf War policy.96 Even
many Japanese themselves were complaining of their government's apparent
inaction.97 Although Japan sent
some minesweepers to the Persian Gulf after the fighting was finished,
the old, familiar calls of Japan as a "free rider" on defense
issues were renewed, as many American officials sharply criticized the
Japanese and their lack of participation in the war. The US Ambassador
to Japan at the time, Michael Armacost, told a news conference, "Japan
is a beneficiary of Middle East oil, but it is not bearing any risk...Japan
will pay money, perhaps break a sweat, but will never spill a drop of blood.
Why is that?"98 A report
of the US House Armed Services Committee labeled Japan a "reluctant
contributor" despite its wealth, which echoed the "widespread
view" in Washington that the Japanese should do more to help the cause
of international defense.99
The Gulf War helped convince the Japanese that their defense alliances
with America should remain strong. As James Auer points out, "There
was a naive feeling among some Japanese before August 2, 1990 that Japan
did not need the military alliance any more, that with the US and USSR
cutting their military budgets, Japan could, too."100
However, the embarrassment experienced by the Japanese government over
the Gulf War provided a strong reason to continue current levels of defense
spending, in order to participate in future efforts toward international
peacekeeping. As SDPJ adviser Tsukamoto Saburo wrote, presaging the SDPJ's
1993 turnabout on military issues, Japan's military strategy needed to
be thoroughly re-examined in favor of international peacekeeping. "If
Japan does not participate in United Nations policing operations, it would
be expressing the solemn position that Japan has chosen the isolationist
path."101 Japan learned
three important lessons during the Gulf War: the post-Cold War era would
not be free of armed conflict, Japan was unprepared to take a leadership
role in international political affairs, and Japan could not attain international
stature by economic means alone.102
After a tumultuous summer of 1992 in which debates over peacekeeping
bills in the Diet erupted in several parliamentary fistfights, the Japanese
Diet passed a compromise bill which enabled Japan to send the SDF abroad
under the auspices of the United Nations, which quieted some international
concerns about Japan becoming a "normal nation,"103
even if at first it raised some concerns about Japan's military being sent
abroad for the first time since World War II. The situation in Cambodia,
as Yasuhiro Ueki points out, was an ideal test run for participation of
the Japanese SDF in UNPKO missions, for three basic reasons. First of all,
the permanent members of the Security Council were all in agreement in
their desire for a settlement, reducing political difficulties for Japan.
Second, the settlement would require significant capital, which was easy
for Japan, relative to sending troops. Third, a conflict situation in Asia
was seen as more suitable to begin Japanese participation, especially since
Japan was one of the few countries involved which has maintained neutrality
on the Cambodian issues, and was thus in a good position to offer compromise
plans.104 With so much to gain,
Japan dispatched 41 polling station officers, 8 military observers, 75
civilian police officers, and 600 SDF troops as part of the effort to prepare
for democratic elections, hopefully leading to the establishment of a new
A public relations disaster was imminent in the spring of 1993, when
two Japanese, a UN volunteer and a PKO trooper, were killed in action in
Cambodia. The public was outraged, and there were demands that the SDF
be recalled. The furor settled somewhat when the solder's father appeared
in the national press and lauded his son for his sacrifice in the name
of peace. MOFA seized on this rhetoric, and announced that the deaths,
"which were very regrettable for Japan, also indicated that world
peace and security are sometimes only achieved at the sacrifices of precious
lives."106 Overall, Japanese
participation in the UN Cambodian operation was a viewed as a step in the
right direction, especially given the overall success in conducting free
and fair elections in Cambodia with relatively little loss of life. The
positive results of the Cambodian intervention were a more optimistic sign
for the future of Japanese participation in peacekeeping operations.107
But the stature of Japanese peacekeeping operations has not progressed
significantly beyond the successes in Cambodia. The largest Japanese contion
to UNPKO remains financial, funding just over 14% of its total expenses.108
Subsequent PKO missions in Mozambique, El Salvador, and Angola have included
few Japanese members, and only the mission in Mozambique has drawn actual
SDF troops (five staff officers, and 48 SDF members). MOFA claims that
participation in the UN Operations in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) mission is "a
contribution by Japan to the stability of a geographically distant region
of southern Africa and holds a major significance...in that it has discharged
a global responsibility toward world peace and security."109
However significant MOFA may believe its ONUMOZ participation to be, Japan
would be hard pressed to demonstrate a significance of the magnitude that
would command a seat on the Security Council.
When PKO action began, Japanese peacekeepers were under heavy constraints,
by edict of the compromise Peacekeeping Bill that eventually passed the
Diet. They could only intervene where there was a stable cease-fire, when
Japan was specifically invited by the parties involved, and could engage
only in non-military action, such as humanitarian relief. The Diet went
so far as to place the restriction that the SDF could not even carry weapons,
thus theoretically reducing the likelihood of becoming entangled in conflicts
in the region. The bill that passed the Diet had to be heavily compromised
due to opposition from within the Diet, and the trend of heavy compromise
over PKO participation has continued since the passage of the Peacekeeping
Partially because of electoral sensitivity to military issues, debates
over military issues tend to focus on fine details, instead of tackling
the larger problems of the future direction of Japan's military. For example,
during the debates on dispatching troops to Rwanda and Zimbabwe, the Diet
heatedly debated whether to allow the SDF to bring two subma guns, as the
JDA proposed, or just one, which was the eventual decision of the Diet.110
If the Diet continues to perceive edicts that Japanese peacekeepers should
act as peacekeepers to be dangerous, Japan's mission in peace-keeping operations
will become increasingly difficult, as other countries such as the US,
Britain, and France, which play a significant role in PKO and Security
Council affairs, look to Japan to take a larger role, and Japan faces domestic
political resistance to bringing two machine guns into a region. However,
these conditions seem to be changing. Although the Japanese have yet to
intervene in an area without a stable cease-fire, Tamazawa Tokuichiro,
director general of the JDA, has declared that Self-Defense personnel stationed
in eastern Zaire may carry their weapons on heir person, and use them for
purposes other than self defense, such as defense of humanitarian aid.
Tamazawa told reporters that the SDF may use arms to protect workers of
non-governmental organizations "when there is pressing danger around
them."111 Although this
change is subtle, it is one more step toward Japan's peacekeeping operations
representing those of a "normal nation."
Another possibility for the future of Japanese security is to enter
regional collective security agreements, cooperating with other Asian countries
in a interlocking series of alliances.112
This possibility has been idealized by elements within the Japanese bureaucracy
as an eventual goal,113 but
it also faces great resistance. First of all, the US-Japan Security Treaty
maintains a ban on Japan's entering NATO-style "collective security"
arrangements, and the new National Defense Program Outline proposed by
the bureaucracy retains this emphasis.114
A revision of the MST in order to allow for the possibility of limited
collective security arrangements does not seem likely in the near future.
The newly elected head of the opposition New Frontier Party, Ozawa Ichiro,
who is seen as prominently arguing for a greater Japanese role in security
issues, has said "The only overseas uses of force we can permit our
nation are peace-keeping activities that take place under the flag of the
United Nations."115 Additionally,
the Japanese military faces intense opposition from much of Asia because
of lingering memories of Japan's previous military expansionism. Some observers
believe that Asian regionalism would require "a much more honest and
repentant attitude on Japan's part toward its World War II victims."116
Japan thus faces a "trust paradox," in that a Japanese military
can only be trusted if it first exists peacefully and in cooperation with
other nations, but such a military can not begin to exist because of the
perception that it cannot exist peacefully and cooperatively with those
The participation in the Cambodian peacekeeping mission was bound to
cause a change, however slight, in the anti-Japanese military stance in
other Asian countries. If Asia saw that Japan was capable of intervening
with the cooperation of the United Nations, and then left peaceably without
any threat to the region, then perhaps some Asian officials might soften
their previously hard-line stance against Japanese military prowess. An
article in The Economist argued, Japan's muddling approach to sending troops
during the Gulf War served as a reminder that the Japanese have no intention
of renewing their drive for militaristic conquest, and "contrary to
popular opinion, some of the strongest critics of Japan's 'pacifist democracy'
are the neighbors who suffered most from its aggression during the Second
World War."117 The outcome
of the Cambodia PKO mission provided Asia's leaders with strong evidence
that Japanese troops could be sent abroad peacefully to aid the UN in its
efforts to maintain regional security.
Many Asian leaders have publicly expressed a general desire for Japan
to play a larger role in international affairs. For instance, Malaysia's
Prime Minister Mohamad "urged Japan to put the past behind it and
to exert leadership in Asia,"118
and Thailand's Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun "exed hope that Japan
would play a more prominent role in regional affairs that went beyond economic
activities."119 Some Asian
leaders actually argued in favor of Japan sending troops to the Gulf in
preparation for the anticipated PKO participation in Cambodia, such as
President Suharto of Indonesia, who told Japanese Foreign Minister Watanabe
Michio that Indonesia would "understand" if Japan were to send
its troops on missions abroad. Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
was said to agree with Suharto's position, and one South Korean official
said it "would be natural" for Japan to join United Nations peacekeeping
However, most leaders stop short of expressing overall acceptance of
the Japanese military, and many maintain a deep-seated fear of a resurgent
Japanese military force. Singapore official Bilveer Singh stated, "We
have to live with the Japanese, but we don't trust them....If they ever
apply their efficiencthe military in the same way they have applied it
to their economy, we've had it."121
As Fukuyama and Oh point out, "Predictably, the strongest international
criticism against the PKO came from Japan's closest neighbors, South and
North Korea.... The PKO is a nightmare for those Koreans in both South
and North Korea who experienced World War II, and for them the PKO is a
sign that the Japanese intend to remilitarize."122
Some officials may fear a long-term scenario in which Japan's military,
no longer reliant on the United States, breaks from the stringent standards
of the current Peacekeeping Bill, and proceeds to other, more threatening
missions. However, it seems that many Asian countries are beginning to
come to terms with Japan as a military power, especially given Japan's
reluctance to become one.
Another oft-cited impediment to regional security efforts (as well as
PKO participation) is a structural impediment, Article Nine of the Constitution.
Diet member Mori Kiyoshi claimed in 1984 that it is not clear that Article
Nine allows for the existence of the SDF, and it should therefore be revised.
He concluded that it was "likely that the definition of the right
to self-defense for Japan will be expanded to allow for Japanese participation
in collective security arrangements."123
More recently, the Yomiuri Shinbun editorial staff took an unusually bold
stance in arguing that "the time has come to begin a debate on what
reforms would be feasible if we were to enact a new Constitution proceeding
from a new point of view." Furthermore, their 1994 Proposal for the
Revision of the Text of the Constitution of Japan states that in order
to cooperate with the activities of "well-established international
organizations," Japan should revise the Constitution to allow the
dispatch of SDF personnel for UNPKO.124
Public support for Constitutional revision may not be new, but the Yomiuri
is quite an influential-and mainstream-source to be supporting reform.
Thus, it seems that another constraint on Japanese military growth is gradually
weakening, reflecting a larger trend of shifting public opinion.
The Gulf War, although a public relations fiasco for the Japanese government,
marked a radical and significant transformation of public opinion of military
issues. An Asahi Shinbun poll taken in November 1990, after Iraq's invasion
of Kuwait but before the Allied offensive began, revealed that 78% of Japanese
opposed the dispatch of the SDF to the Gulf.125
By February 1991, at the beginning of the actual fighting, the polls indicated
that the number of Japanese opposing dispatch had decreased to 55%. In
that survey, 33% supported sending troops, but 55% rejected a plan to use
the SDF to play a role in transporting refugees.126
By June 1991, the public had largely come to support a Japanese role in
peacekeeping operations in the Gulf War, with only 21% opposing dispatch
and fully 74% approving. In fact, in this survey, 64% of respondents answered
that it was necessary for Japan to play a more active role overall in settling
international disputes.127 Whether
that more active role extended to PKO participation in armed conflicts
was open for question, but the survey certainly indicated that the majority
of Japanese would like to see Japan become more of a leader in world affairs.
Joseph Nye reached the heart of the matter when he observed that opinion
was swung by success.128 Part
of the reason for the shift in public opinion was that the war was clearly
one-sided, and there was little danger to the Allied forces. The Japanese
had come to realize that military participation in conflicts such as the
Gulf War, which carried little relative risk, could boost Japan's international
image greatly, whereas Japan's failure to participate with troops, even
if those troops were only used to transport refugees, damaged that image.
With this increase in public acceptance of Japanese participation in PKO,
Japan, under pressure in the United Nations for greater participation,
felt it was time to take the next step, and send troops abroad for the
first time since World War II.
In the fall of 1992, the Diet approved a plan to allow the SDF to participate
in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), in order
to maintain an environment of peace so that the Cambodian people could
freely elect a new government. The peacekeeping bill was heavily debated,
and the widespread debates in the Diet and the press, over both the Gulf
War and the Cambodian intervention, caused awareness of defense and defense
issues to rise drastically. A public that had believed itself to be "somewhat
aware" of defense issues took a great interest in the Cambodian question.
The number of people who said they were "well aware" of defense
issues rose from 26.8% in 1990 to 55.3% in 1992, and the number of people
who were "not really aware" fell from 22.9% to only 8.4% in the
same period, perhaps a measure of the amount of influence the media can
have in setting a national agenda (see figure 5).129
The Cambodian mission was, eventually, a public opinion success, of
sorts. According to Asahi Shinbun polls taken on May 29 and 30, 1993, just
after the Cambodian elections were held, 45.7% of respondents supported
Japan's participation in the peacekeeping activities in Cambodia, while
33.4% disapproved. Another 20.7% of respondents either had no response,
were not sure, or gave a different reply.130
Although the levels of support after the success of the mission are nowhere
near the 74% approval level given after the Gulf War, it is important to
remember that first of all, the UNTAC mission involved actual Japanese
soldiers and actual Japanese casualties, and second of all, Japanese interests
were not as directly at stake as they were during the Gulf War. Although
the benefits in terms of international prestige were certainly a major
factor in Japan's decision to participate in the Cambodia mission, these
benefits were not as tangible or immediate as a the harms of a restricted
flow of oil from the Middle East would have been. For a plurality, and
nearly a majority of Japanese to support a mission with intangible benefits
and very tangible risks represented a significant milestone for the future
of Japanese UNPKO participation. The bureaucracy and Diet interpreted these
figures as support of UNPKO participation, and thus decided to dispatch
53 SDF members, mostly transport personnel, to the ONUMOZ mission.131
Domestic pacifism certainly still exists, and Japanese willingness to
participate in peacekeeping missions is still grudging at best. As Chinworth
points out, "there is no doubt that the pacifist sentiments of Japan
are strongly embraced today even while recognizing potential security threats."132
Opinion polls taken by the Tokyo Broadcasting System in July 1993 (just
after the Diet's no confidence vote against the Miyazawa government) reported
that only 32% of respondents agreed that "Japan should participate
in United Nations peacekeeping efforts in trouble spots around the world,"
and 66% said they "feared Japan would be caught up in another country's
war if it increased its military power."133
In the May 1993 Asahi poll on Cambodia, 65.5% of respondents said they
"felt uneasy" with the role played by the SDF there, and 55.2%
said that the SDF should withdraw as soon as the elections were finished.
Furthermore, only 21% of respondents supported plans for further overseas
dispatches of the SDF following those to Cambodia and Mozambique, while
a full 60% opposed such a move.134
These ratings are actually less supportive of sending troops abroad than
the generally unsupportive ratings at the beginning of the Gulf War (when
30% approved of sending the SDF, and 55% opposed), a fact which tempers
the abovementioned shift in public acceptance of PKO participation. An
April 1993 Yomiuri Shinbun poll found that more than 40% of respondents
opposed an amendment to the constitution to enhance Japan's cooperation
on the international scene, and said the Japanese should be proud of their
pacifist constitution. Only 6% wanted to revise the constitution to the
extent that Japan could build a large military force and declare its sovereign
right to self-defense.135
However, the same Yomiuri poll found that a majority of those polled
favored amending the constitution to enhance Japan's cooperation on the
international scene.136 According
to MOFA, public opinion surveys show that the percentage of Japanese who
believe that "Japan has the responsibility toward the international
community to promote its own internationalization" has undergone a
slight increase of 2.6% from 1989 to 1993, reaching 45.7%. The survey also
asked respondents specifically what kind of role Japan ought to play in
the international community, and those who answered "contribution
to solving global problems," rose between 1989 and 1993 from 34.6%
to 48.4%. Those who answered "contribution to international peace,
including arbitration of regional conflicts" rose from 12.9% to 28.8%.137
Both answers reflect notable increases from the levels recorded before
Japan's forays into collective efforts towards international peacekeeping,
reflecting that even as the Japanese still are reluctant to favor participation
in military operations, the level of support for such operations is rising
steadily with successful participation.
Japan's participation in PKO has not only raised the level of awareness
of defense issues, but concern with defense issues and the Self Defense
Forces as well (see figure 6).138
More importantly, the reasons for why people were or were not concerned
with defense issues illustrated a change in the Japanese popular mindset.
Of those who described themselves as "concerned with defense issues,"
nearly half said that they were so "because defense involves Japan's
security and independence," and 22.7% answered "because defense
involves the maintenance of the order of international society (see figure
7).139 Three-quarters of
those who are concerned with defense support Japanese defense efforts,
and support Japan taking a larger international role in peacekeeping. In
contrast, only 2% of those who said they were concerned were so because
they felt the SDF was "unnecessary." Of those who responded that
they were not concerned with defense issues, the biggest reasons by far
were either a lack of knowledge on the subject (38.9%), or a feeling that
the SDF has no relationship to their lives (33.6%). Only 15.1% believed
that there was "no imminent military threat," perhaps indicating
that few people have great faith in the international instruments that
could deter military threats to Japan, such as the efficacy of the United
Nations, or the defense guarantees of the Mutual Security Treaty.140
Recently, fear of military threat has been a driving force in acceptance
of current levels of defense spending. Although down from Cold War levels,
the number of Japanese who fear that Japan may be involved in a war remains
a majority of those polled.141
However, 68.6% of people who fear the possibility of war do not blame their
fears on the perceived weakness of the SDF, but rather on "international
tension" and "opposition" to Japan (see figure
8).142 An additional 20.7%
believe that there is a war danger because UN machinery is insufficient
to protect Japan in the event of a conflict.143
Of those who did not believe there was a danger of war, 39.3% answered
that the UN peace efforts would be enough to solve the conflict, and fully
37.9% answered that they would be protected from the possibility of a conflict
by the limitations on defense in the Japanese Constitution.144
In contrast, only 13.3% thought that the MST was a sufficient reason to
feel safe, and only 5% answered that the SDF was sufficient to prevent
The lack of faith in the ability of the MST to protect Japan from war is representative of a larger mistrust between Japan and the United States. Overall, the Japanese feel that the relationship between the two countries is fairly good, with 64% of respondents in a 1994 poll answering that they felt the relationship was good.146 However, some critics argue that the number of Japanese nervous about the US commitment is growing.147 An Asahi Shinbun poll from May 29, 1990 showed that only 31% of the Japanese said that "Japan should continue to depend on the United States" and 40% said "Japan should build up an independent defense system."148 Currently, for the first time since a major opinion poll on US-Japan ties began 17 years ago, Japanese unhappy about the relationship outnumber those happy with it. In a December 1995 poll, the Yomiuri Shinbun reported that only 23.2% of Japanese believed that overall US-Japan ties were "good."149
The Yomiuri poll reflects the fact that Japanese public opinion regarding
US-Japan relations and military issues has been affected recently by what
the Boston Globe somewhat hyperbolically described as "a series of
disasters in US-Japan relations." The rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan
girl by US servicemen has spurred anti-American and anti-military public
opinion in Okinawa as well as the rest of Japan. An Associated Press report
from September 1995 described "a wave of public outrage" which
was being expressed in large protests against the American bases in Okinawa,
an integral part of the Security Treaty.150
November 1995 polls by Nihon Keizai Shinbun found that 40% of Japanese
wanted to scrap the security treaty, an increase of 11.3% from just prior
to the incident, according to the Nihon Keizai figures.151
Despite the increased levels in disapproval of the MST, which may only
be temporary anyway, most Japanese still support the status quo. The December
1995 Yomiuri poll found a majority of Japanese and Americans, about 60%
each, believed it in their national interests to maintain the US-Japan
Security Treaty. However uneasy the Japanese may feel about the MST, a
better alternative is nowhere in sight. When asked in August and September
1995 how useful the Security Treaty is in maintaining the peace and safety
of Japan, 67% answered that it was useful or somewhat useful, with only
14% saying it was not useful, numbers that have remained basically constant
since for almost two decades.152
When asked in 1994 what should be done to maintain the peace and safety
of Japan, 68% answered "Maintain the US-Japan Security Treaty and
defend Japan with both the US and the Self Defense Forces." Only 4%
of respondents said "Abolish the US-Japan Security Treaty and defend
Japan with its own increased forces," and only 7% said "Abolish
the US-Japan Security Treaty and either decrease the offensive capacity
of the Forces or eliminate the Forces entirely."153
Thus, despite uneasiness with the American commitment to defend Japan if
necessary, an overwhelming majority of Japanese have rejected any other
path, and have accepted the status quo. It seems that the LDP and bureaucracy
have won the battles fought throughout the postwar period in order to win
support for public opinion of the status quo, although the costs of winning
those battles may have been quite high.
An examination of SDF support broken down by age groups reveals some interesting trends. When asked what impression they had of the SDF, the older the respondent, the better the impression, with the number of people who answered that their impression was "good" ranging from only 9.5% in the 20-29 year-old age group, to fully 41.2% in the 70 and older age group (see figure 9).154 In addition, as the age of the respondent rises, so does the respondent's faith that there is no danger of a war, with 30.2% of those in the 20-29 age range stating that "there is a danger" of war, and an average of only 18% of those 50 and older responding similarly (see figure 10).155 Using these statistics as a predictor of future mainstream attitudes is problematic, given that people's attitudes tend to change over time, usually toward the conservative end of the spectrum. However, it is difficult to determine if PKO missions are considered to be "conservative" or "liberal," and to what extent. It is possible that older Japanese who remember the war tend to be more nationalistic, and that as the war generation disappears, so will those residual nationalistic feelings, and along with them, support for the SDF. However, as young people tend to be more idealistic in their views (this is, of course, a broad generalization), it is also possible that as long as the status quo on defense remains effective, the younger generation, which some have argued is "less weighted down by any constitutional baggage...than with what it is in Japan's interests to do,"156 will come to accept the SDF as a vital part of Japan's defense strategy.
After the end of the Cold War, MOFA was adapting to new defense scenarios,
and MOF had started adapting to the recession by curtailing defense growth.
But the Diet, whose defense policy was just beginning to adapt to the post-Cold
War World, was sidetracked by the 1993 reorganization of power within the
parliament, and the result was delicate coalitions of politicians, few
of whom were willing to advocate radical changes in defense policy and
risk upsetting the careful balance of power. Even before the 1993 shakeup,
Japan's contemporary pro-defense politicians were careful to couch rhetoric
of military growth within globally oriented nationalism, again claiming
that an expanded military was in Japan's best interest in becoming a global
partner. Ishihara Shintaro went to great length to explain that no matter
what his domestic critics say, he is not a "neonationalist,"
or a "right-winger," but is merely "thinking about his country's
security."157 Ozawa Ichiro,
one of Japan's most outspoken military advocates and head of the New Frontier
Party, writes in his Blueprint for a New Japan that it would be "natural
and appropriate" for Japan to alter its Constitution so as to allow
peacekeeping missions under the UN flag, but his explicit end is that Japan
should become a "normal nation," contributing to international
peace and order.158 A February
1992 report issued by an ad hoc group of LDP Diet members which was headed
by Ozawa said that Japan should allow the SDF "to play a full peace-keeping
role" in the UN, and participate in a future "UN army,"
with the goal being to strengthen Japan's role in the UN, and obtain a
seat on the Security Council.159
Since the 1993 loss of LDP power, both SDPJ doves and LDP hawks alike have
been forced to tone down extremist rhetoric (such as it has been recently)
for fear of alienating potential allies in the Diet.
The instability in the Diet has "so disrupted Japan's politics
that political and establishment leaders have little time or taste for
much else."160 With the
Socialists gaining power in the Diet, one might expect to see a slowdown
in military growth, a long-time platform of the JSP. However, in a July
1, 1994 news conference, Murayama, Japan's first Socialist Prime Minister
since 1955, reversed his long opposition to the use of the Japanese military
in United States peacekeeping operations, stating that "The Socialist
Party has changed considerably already...we are now capable of keeping
abreast of the times."161
Evidently, "the times" includes a troubled Japanese coalition
government attempting to hold itself together by making as few waves as
possible. The public at large may have wanted a different party in power
and voted accordingly, but the result was that the formerly pacifist Murayama
became a pro-status quo Prime Minister from a pro-status quo coalition,
a coalition which may have been pro-status quo because it lacked the power
to be anything else. At its September 3, 1994 convention, the Social Democratic
Party of Japan formally adopted a new platform that supports the SDF and
the US-Japan Security Treaty.162
Editorials from various Japanese newspapers widely criticized the SDPJ
for its policy reversal, saying that the party "has passed the point
of no return" (Kochi Shinbun), and "does not have a coherent
political philosophy it can sell to the public" (Sankei Shinbun).
Even newspapers that are sympathetic to gradualist military policy took
the opportunity to criticize the SDPJ, writing that the SDPJ "is like
a track runner one lap behind" (Yomiuri Shinbun). Other media, such
as the Chunichi Shinbun, criticized the SDPJ policy from a standpoint of
public opinion: "How are they going to deal with the citizens' movements
against military bases?" 163
This criticism is especially significant given the recent public demonstrations
against the military bases in Okinawa, and others have criticized the government
for being unresponsive to public opinion on Okinawa. Yoshimasa Karimata,
assistant director of the Okinawan Peace Movement Center, was quoted as
saying, "All Okinawans are outraged by what is happening,we want the
bases off our island. But all too often our voices aren't heard in Tokyo."164
Murayama, head of the same Socialist party that was organizing the Okinawa
protests, said that "high emotions should not be allowed to hurt the
alliance," and urged Okinawa Governor Ota Masahide, an outspoken opponent
of the US military bases in Okinawa, to be "less combative."165
With the change in the Japanese political system, the Japanese seem
to have supported a party that supports less military growth, but as long
as the ruling coalition remains fragile, the status quo policies do not
seem likely to change, no matter which party is at the head of the coalition.
Military analyst Haruo Fujii has argued that Japan will continue with the
MST and cooperate with the United States strategic aims because "Tokyo
is not yet ready for a domestic political battle by saying too clearly
where its defense spending is headed."166
Other political analysts cite domestic reluctance to see a dramatic increase
in Japan's own military forces in saying that the Japanese are not ready
to contemplate reducing the US military presence now. Takashi Inoguchi,
professor of political science at the United Nations University in Tokyo,
said of the US-Japan security arrangement, "A bit of tinkering will
probably be done but a fundamental change is not envisaged. Perhaps a half
century from now, but not in the next five to 15 years. Most of the Japanese
public is not ready to see a security configuration where Japan has to
take more responsibility."167
With a public that is only slowly growing more accepting, the difficulty
of a tentative SDPJ-LDP alliance, and the recognition that given Asian
fears of Japanese militarism, US forces are more stabilizing than Japanese
forces, a fundamental change in security structures is indeed unlikely.
However, until the recent first steps into PKO participation, the Japanese
military has not fundamentally changed since its inception, with all changes
coming only very gradually. Just over a decade ago, Steven Vogel argued
that "the constraints against rearmament are not yet dead, but they
now are seriously questioned, and they could further lose force in the
next decade. After ten years of slightly accelerated incremental build-up,
the Japanese people, the media, and the politicians may be much more accustomed
to the idea of a postwar Japanese military."168
The constraints on spending increases and overall levels of spending may
be roughly the same now as they were throughout the postwar period, but
examining recent figures regarding the gradual (if grudging) public acceptance
of Japanese military operations under the aegis of the United Nations confirms
Vogel's ten-year hypothesis that a postwar Japanese military has become
more acceptable to the Japanese people.
On November 23, 1995, MOFA released a statement renewing its commitment
to maintaining current American troop levels in Japan. The same report
quoted Foreign Minister Kono Yohei as saying, "While maintaining harmony
with and achieving the goals of the Japan-US Security Treaty, we would
like to our best to produce best results," indicating that the political
and military realists in the bureaucracy and Diet, those who favor close
cooperation with the United States and a gradual defense buildup, are still
leading Japan's policy, despite the public opinion backlash against the
US military bases in Okinawa, and despite the current political instability.
In October 1995, in the first comprehensive review of the country's
military strength in two decades, and in the face of a long-standing economic
recession, the JDA proposed cuts of about 20% of its allowed quota of troops
and weapons. Significant changes in the new National Defense Policy Outline
include reducing the Ground Self Defense Forces (GSDF) from thirteen divisions
to eight, and cutting tanks from 1,200 to 940. The ceiling on GSDF troops
will be reduced from 180,000 to 144,000, a change which will not affect
actual troop levels too significantly, given that the actual number of
troops now stands at about 158,800. The policy would also reduce the Maritime
Self Defense Forces (MSDF) surface vessel fleet and P-3C anti-submarine
planes by 20% and its minesweeper fleet by 50%. The Air Self Defense Forces
(ASDF) will cut 10% of its front-line strength of 350 fighters.
According to the JDA draft, the reductions will be balanced by new hi-tech
weaponry, such the purchase of 11 F-2 fighters, formerly known as the FSX,
an aircraft jointly developed with the United States, the acquisition of
AWACS air-borne early warning aircraft, and an increase of mobile units
in the three services, such as helicopter-borne army brigades.169
The latest ministry proposal was approved at a meeting of Japan's National
Security Council chaired by former Prime Minister Murayama, and was later
approved by the Cabinet.170
Despite the reductions in front-line numbers, the proposal states that
Japan's overall defense spending will rise 2.58% in the coming fiscal year,
pushing Japan's defense budget to 4.85 trillion yen ($47.5 billion) for
the year beginning April 1996. If the Diet passes the budget without significant
change, it would mark the first time in six years that an increase in defense
spending topped the previous year's growth.171
The new NDPO retains the previous emphasis on the importance of the
US-Japan Security Treaty, observing that the US-Japan Security Treaty system
is not only beneficial for Japan but also contributes to stability in Asia.172
However, the document also said that US bases on the southern island of
Okinawa, home to 75% of all US military facilities in Japan, must be "streamlined."
It is difficult to ascertain a direct causation, but perhaps the JDA decision
to propose streamlining the Okinawan bases was influenced by the recent
mass demonstrations in Okinawa. The fact that a bureaucratic agency, not
directly accountable to the public's electoral power, chose to make this
recommendation signals that even if the bureaucracy is insulated from the
public's electoral wrath, the JDA does pay attention to public demonstrations
of will to the extent that it can afford to, and Japanese people maintain
some influence over Japan's long-term defense plans.
The final version of the NDPO has not been approved as of this writing,
but the Diet is currently debating certain of its policies. One major area
that the Diet has already modified is a point of contention over the Theater
Missile Defense (TMD) plan, an US-led project to install a network of satellites
and missiles to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles. In an echo of postwar
defense debates, the SDPJ did not want a firm commitment to the project,
and the LDP agreed to water down the wording in the five-year defense plan,
saying that research in the project does not mean a full commitment to
its execution.173 Predicting
other changes that may come about in the Diet is difficult, especially
given Murayama's recent resignation and the ascendance of former MITI minister
Hashimoto Ryutaro to the Prime Minister position. The Yomiuri recently
criticized the LDP for "failing to state its case in the policy negotiations,
presumably because of its unprincipled compromise to ensure the launching
of Hashimoto's administration," and attributed the LDP's actions to
political considerations the LDP has given to the negative stances that
the SDPJ and Sakigake have taken on the issue.174
However, since the most viable Diet opposition to the defense plan is within
the coalition from the SDPJ, and not from the Ozawa-led New Frontier Party,
the ruling coalition, in an attempt to maintain its strength until the
next elections are called, will probably cooperate closely to quickly agree
on a compromise NDPO within the coalition. The pro-defense Ozawa will be
unlikely to challenge that position, and the result will be a defense policy
that will not differ significantly from the original JDA proposal.
America's most recent policy initiative for the East Asia-Pacific region,
commonly referred to as "The Nye Initiative" (after one of its
architects, Joseph Nye), includes the goals of strengthening the bilateral
partnership with Japan, as well as encouraging the creation of a sub-regional
security dialogue in Northeast Asia.175
The report clearly states that although America has reduced its forces
between 1990 and 1994, it intends to maintain its strong military presence
in Asia, "consulting closely with our allies and friends, vigilant
to protect our shared interests."176
However, America's intention to maintain a strong military presence in
Asia does not imply less American pressure for more defense efforts on
Japan's part. Because of America's continuing presence in the region, an
Asian regional security dialogue is wholly compatible with the American
goals of encouraging Japan to assume further defense responsibilities,
which may spur American policymakers in the near future to examine softening
the clause of the MST prohibiting regional security alliances.
Thus, another challenge for the United States is to negotiate the degree
of Japan's military independence and leadership that would best suit American
interests. Michael Green discusses a tightrope that America must walk between
technological entrapment and abandonment of Japan.177
This tightrope also exists in the paradigm of regional collective security.
On one hand, if America maintains too strong a forward force in Asia, the
reliance on America for Asian security will result in a situation in which
the proposed regional security dialogue will probably not progress past
mere dialogue, and any regional tensions will be blamed partially on the
United States. On the other hand, if America lowers its strength in Asia,
the resultant military vacuum would almost certainly lead to an arms buildup
in the region, which would be destabilizing at best, and disastrous should
a conflict break out in the Spratly Islands, across the Korean peninsula,
or in any other realm. America's response to this policy dilemma is to
maintain current American troop levels of 100,000 in the East Asia-Pacific
region, and re-emphasize the gradualism of Japanese defense growth, as
well as the gradual steps Japan is taking toward participation in international
peacekeeping missions. Instead of large-scale conflicts between major powers,
which are unlikely primarily for the economic reasons enumerated previously,
the more likely danger is smaller civil wars and conflicts requiring peacekeeping
forces. Japan must pay attention to these conflicts first and foremost,
because, as Nye argued, "it would be unhealthy in the long run for
Japanese to sit back and write checks without spilling any blood. It would
be unstable in the long run."178
The two great constraints on defense spending, pressures from other
Asian countries and domestic public opinion, have reached a turning point.
Indeed, it is a delicate turning point, and if the Japanese government
were to interpret too generously the world's tentative acceptance of the
Self Defense Forces and implement a policy that too quickly expands the
mission and domain of the Japanese military, then public approvals, both
at home and abroad, would likely plummet. Considering the combination of
an insecure political situation and the ongoing recession, a radical increase
in military spending is not likely to happen in the latter half of the
decade, despite the minor increase in year-on-year spending likely to be
approved for the latest NDPO. But even if spending levels only rise at
a constant rate, the SDF is a significant and potentially effective force,
and the reduction of the other constraints on military policy has led the
Japanese government to the point where there is greater latitude as to
what policies can be pursued.
The first initiative the Japanese government should take is a closer
examination of the possibility of collective regional security. Although
Japan's most recent NDPO maintains the MST ban on entering NATO-style "collective
security" arrangements, this ban exists largely because one of the
goals of American foreign policy toward East Asia is "the prevention
of the rise of any hegemonic power or coalition."179
American interests would be harmed if Japan were to renounce the Security
Treaty and form a military coalition solely with its East Asian neighbors,
because America would lose part of the forward position in Asia that contributes
to the stability of the region. However, the basic aims of the MST do not
necessarily preclude a limited extent of regional collective security efforts,
in preparation for the possibility that America will one day have to reduce
its presence in the region. A recent article in The Economist argued that
the policymakers responsible for the NDPO ducked the issue of collective
security, and warned that Japan's hesitance to accept more responsibility
for its own defense could be dangerous, as it could encourage more Americans
to say that only the withdrawal of American troops will make Japan do more
for its own defense, a scenario which could lead to an arms race, possibly
In order to prevent such a possibility, the Japanese could begin regional
security cooperation by building on existing forums such as ASEAN. Such
a step would signal a long-term intention for Japan to be less reliant
on (although no less allied with) American defense forces, and successful
cooperation could possibly help defuse certain tensions in the East Asia-Pacific
region. Fukuyama and Oh argue that the end of the Cold War makes an Asian
regional security structure more possible, but as of yet, it is very difficult
to conceive of anything more than a discussion forum.181
For now, a discussion forum is an acceptable beginning; even to discuss
defense and defense strategies regularly might lead to a reduction in tensions,
just as the Indonesian-sponsored talks over the Spratly Islands has helped
reduce the possibility of a conflict in the South China Sea. One possible
larger project for Japan is to attempt to negotiate a cooperative agreement
with its neighbors to help defend their mutual sea lanes, especially with
other Asian countries that are dependent on foreign imports of oil and
other necessities, such as South Korea and Taiwan. Joint military exercises
with other Asian countries could be mutually beneficial for the experience
of their armed services, and could help foster cooperation and mutual understanding
between countries which may currently harbor some distrust. Eventually,
a scenario in which all the countries is Asia can participate in cooperation
with American forces to maintain the security of the Asia-Pacific region
would be ideal, but it is not so idealistic as to be out of reach as a
The second initiative for the Japanese government is a more active role
in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. The SDF can participate in PKO
to the advantage of Japan, other countries participating in UNPKO, and
the regions in which the intervention takes place, such as Cambodia, Mozambique,
and most recently, the Middle East, trying to keep the peace in areas of
the world that desperately need peacekeeping. Thanks in part to the SDF,
Cambodia enjoyed free and fair elections, helping to oust the murderous
Khmer Rouge from power, bringing relative stability to the country. As
much as Asia may fear the lingering shadows of World War II, the civilian
populations of Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, and the nervous countries surrounding
these unstable regions, do not fear the Japanese military as much as they
would welcome it, as long as it is under the flag of the United Nations,
of course. If Japan fails to take part in UNPKO, the world's criticism
will continue to grow sharper, and Japan's drive for international prestige,
and a seat on the Security Council, will be further frustrated. As an article
in The Economist declared during the Gulf War, "The argument that
[Asian] countries would object if Japan182ese forces were involved in peacekeeping
efforts abroad has been exposed as an excuse for doing nothing."182
Considering the current political support for party leaders Hashimoto and
Ozawa, both of whom share the view that Japan's military should assume
a larger role in global peacekeeping, Japan seems to be headed in this
A hopeful sign for the future of Japanese peacekeeping was the announcement
of August 1995 to send peacekeeping troops to replace Canadian troops in
the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which currently acts as a
buffer between Syrian and Israeli forces on the Golan Heights. The Japanese
government decided that it would aim to send troops in February 1996, but
their latest announcement revealed that the troops would be dispatched
earlier than previously scheduled, possibly in January, if a final draft
of the program is approved by the cabinet soon enough. JDA minister Eto
Seishiro told a news that the Japanese contingent should be equipped in
the same manner as the Canadian team it would replace, meaning that the
Japanese troops should carry light arms.183
The Diet's reaction to this announcement is as yet unknown, but the change,
another in a series of minor yet significant changes, continues to signify
the drive of Japan's military realists to start accepting the responsibilities,
both moral and political, that must necessarily accompany Japan's increasing
influence on the world stage. The majority of the Japanese people want
increased international cooperation, and increased prestige for Japan,
but may not have connected these wishes with UNPKO participation, an extremely
effective way to achieve these goals. Now that Japanese public opinion
will tolerate limited participation in peacekeeping operations, the Japanese
government should take the initiative often required in a representative
democracy, and do its share to safeguard national and global security.
Many thanks are due to many people, but first and foremost I owe a tremendous
debt of gratitude to Steven K. Vogel, who, despite being incredibly busy
with his own research, bravely agreed to oversee and advise this project,
and has taken the time and energy to do so thoroughly, patiently, and graciously.
I also thank Michael Blaker for his earlier comments on my views of Japanese
defense policy, and Susan Pharr for helping me understand various models
of Japanese politics. Additionally, Tsuneko Yukawa, Kiyomi Nakamura, Atsuko
Inomata, Shiori Koizumi, and Yuko Hoshino have greatly assisted in my research
with Japanese language materials. To all these individuals goes much of
the credit, but with the author alone lies any fault in translation, fact,
analysis, or interpretation.
I would also like to thank the administrative support staff at Harvard,
including Harold Bolitho and the faculty and staff Department of East Asian
Languages and Civilizations, and the faculty and staff of the Department
of Regional Studies-East Asia, especially Margaret Lindsey for her skillful
guidance through Harvard's bureaucracy. I also thank the ever-so-patient
staff of the Harvard-Yenching Library and Document Center for Japan. Additionally,
I thank the TDK Corporation, which provided a generous fellowship for my
study at Harvard University.
Finally, I would like to thank Sailaja Sastry, for her continuing inspiration
Figure 1. Opinion of the danger that Japan will be involved in a war, 1971 - 1992
Figure 2. Overall impression of the SDF, 1969 and 1988
Figure 3. Public opinion of defense expenditures, 1969 - 1988
Figure 4. Comparison of party election results and defense spending as a percentage of GNP, 1958 - 1993
Figure 5. Awareness of defense issues, 1980 - 1992
Figure 6. Concern with defense issues, 1980 - 1992
Figure 7. Reasons for concern with defense issues, 1992
Figure 8. Reasons for fearing involvement in war, 1992
Figure 9. Impression of SDF by age, 1992
Figure 10. Perception of danger of war by age, 1992
ASDF.......... Air Self-Defense Forces
ASEAN......... Association of Southeast Asian Nations
CSSJ.......... Center for Strategic Studies of Japan
DPC........... Defense Production Committee (of Keidanren)
GSDF.......... Ground Self Defense Forces
JDA........... Japan Defense Agency
JDC........... Joint Defense Committee
JSP........... Japan Socialist Party
LDP........... Liberal Democratic Party
MITI.......... Ministry of International Trade and Industry
MOF........... Ministry of Finance
MOFA.......... Ministry of Foreign Affairs
MSDF.......... Maritime Self Defense Forces
MST........... Mutual Security Treaty
NDPO.......... National Defense Program Outline
NPR........... National Police Reserve
ONUMOZ........ United Nations Operations in Mozambique
PKO........... Peacekeeping Operations
SDF........... Self Defense Forces
SDPJ.......... Social Democratic Party of Japan
TMD........... Theater Missile Defense
UNDOF......... United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (in the Golan Heights)
UNPKO......... United Nations Peacekeeping Operations
UNTAC......... United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia
UNTAG......... United Nations Transition Assistance Group (in Namibia)
US DOD........ United States Department of Defense
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