September 18, 2015 | Research | Bruce Weinrod

Japan’s Role in International Security Cooperation: A Force for Stability and Peace

The Japanese Diet is considering legislation that would permit Japan to assist its allies, including especially the US when its own security is seriously threatened. This historic legislation will provides a legal framework allowing Japan to take its place as a leading force for international security cooperation within the democratic community of nations.

Specific constitutional and legal issues related to the concept of “collective self-defense” are for the Japanese political system to decide. However, approval of the legislation would mean that Japan will assume a more pro-active multi-lateral international security role and would also reinforce the Japan-US defense alliance. Approval of the legislation would also enhance the prospects for a secure Japan, as well as for regional peace and stability. The legislation would permit an adaptation of Japanese international security policy which is necessary and appropriate for the following reasons:

First, regional security threats have become much noire serious in recent years. The most direct challenges are from China, which has claimed the right to control wide swaths of the South China Sea, increased its defense spending substantially and also is steadily and significantly strengthening its military capabilities.

Another major regional threat emanates from North Korea. North Korea possesses ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and is ruled by a bellicose leadership that is both isolated and unstable.

Second, there are security threats related to terrorism. Radical nations such as Iran, as well as non-state entities, use terrorism in order to undermine moderate governments and also to spread extremist anti-democratic ideologies. Such terrorism threatens the entire civilized world .In addition, general Middle Eastern instabilities can potentially affect Japan’s vital security interest in energy supplies.

Third, the new guidelines are very consistent with recent Japanese security policies and do not represent a radical change in approach. Japan has pursued cooperative security activities for some time, not only regionally but globally, and the new guidelines are simply a logical and reasonable evolution of existing approaches. For example, as far back as the Persian Gulf conflict in the early 1990s, Japanese forces removed sea mines in support of the allied coalition and Japan has also supported missions to block the flow of terrorists and the Indian Ocean and recently Japan has participated in anti-piracy missions near the Horn of Africa as well as exercises with the US and India and Australia. In addti9on, Japan for many years has deployed military forces in support of international peacekeeping operations in locations such as Cambodia, the Golan Heights, Iraq, Haiti, and South Sudan.

Fourth, under the new legislation, it is very clear that Japanese security policies are, and will continue to be, multilateral and defensive in nature – not unilateral or threatening – Japan has chosen to place itself within a web of regional and global security relationships with other democracies which reinforce Japan’s multilateral approach to international security. For example, Japan has increased its security ties with nations such as Australia and India, and has ongoing security links with other nations such as South Korea and the Philippines. Separately, Japan also is actively connected to Asian regional security structures.

Fifth, Japan’s democratic political system reinforces the acceptability of an increased Japanese international security role. Japan is now a mature democracy that uses its influence and resources to encourage the development of democratic institutions and practices elsewhere. It is also worth noting that numerous academic studies have concluded that democracies tend to be peaceful. And non-aggressive.   .

Sixth, Japan’s increased responsibilities and willingness in principle to assist the US common defense efforts will be greatly welcomed in the US, which has pledged to help defend Japan against a military attack, especially since the primary outcome of this new approach will be for Japan to cooperate with the US in the defense of Japan itself. While there are many partisan differences in the US, there is bipartisan agreement with the official US position pledging an “ironclad commitment to the defense of Japan”.

Finally, a more active Japanese defensive security role working with its allies stronger will make secure Japan living with regional peace and stability more likely. History indicates that expansionist and belligerent nations are tempted to attack by weakness. On the other hand, strong alliances among democratic nations can deter potential aggressors and therefore make conflict less likely.

While the enactment of the legislation, Japan can increase its defensive international security cooperation in various ways with the US, including enhanced missile defense cooperation. Japan can also enhance further its relationship with NATO, which has now evolved into a global democratic security network. Japan can also strengthen further its security-related activities with other Asia democracies such as Australia, India, the Philippines and South Korea.

Collective self-defense is recognized as a legitimate right of nations under Article 51 of the UN Charter. At the same time, the role of collective defense in Japanese security policy is for Japan is and Japan alone to decide. However, from a US perspective, the acceptance by Japan of the concept of collective self-defense should not only not because concerns but rather should be welcomed. Given that Japan is a leading member of the democratic community of nations and has consistently acted responsibly and defensively with respect to international security, combined with growing security threats, now is an appropriate time for Japan to assume an increased international security role.

Japan’s Prime Mister Abe has acted courageously to strengthen Japan’s ability to defend itself and its allies by permitting Japan to provide, as he stated it, a “proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation.” Prime Minister Abe’s approach will ensure a strong US-Japan security alliance, which has been crucial for stability in the Asia-Pacific region over the past several decades In terms of Japan’s international role, it can be said that Prime Minister Abe, as was US President Ronald Reagan, is a transformational visionary leader whose security policies will allow Japan to take its proper place in protecting the common values of Japan and the US, as well as world of democratic nations.

Published in Sankei Shimbun