IS : Ideal Testing Ground for Japan’s ‘Collective Right to Self-Defence’?
26 NOV 15
November 2015, French President François Hollande, in response to the inhumane suicide bombings in Paris, declared war against the Islamic State (hereafter IS). Soon-after this understandable, yet still surprising declaration, pursuant to Article 5 of the NATO Constitution, France invoked her right to call fellow Members including U.S. and 26 other countries from Europe and North America to fight alongside her for the “Collective Defense” of NATO. Recent reports are now predicting a Chinese – Russian military cooperation against IS, although this coalition’s motives may differ from that of NATO Members. As the Civilized World or Advanced Nations (as have you) unite under a single purpose – to exterminate IS, oddly quiet is a State which recently revised the interpretation of its Constitution and passed the National Security Legislation for the sole purpose of once again militarizing under the justification of “Collective Right to Self-Defence” – Japan.
Japan has Motive to Intervene : Early 2015, IS released a videotape which showed the brutal be-headings of two Japanese citizens Kenji Goto and Haruna Yuka which shocked the nation and consequently fueled the support for Prime Minister Shinjo Abe’s efforts to abandon the 60 year old, peace-keeping Article 9 of the Constitution which forbade the invasion of foreign soil by Japanese Soldiers. After her surrender in World War II to the United States, Japan was forced to instill this specific clause to prevent her de-militarization and rise to power. Thus formed was the Japan Self Defence Forces (hereinafter, JSDF), Japanese military, its field of operation limited to the Japanese territory and seas. The Prime Minister has for a long time justified his mostly unwelcome, radical, and widely considered as erroneous interpretation of the Constitution for the necessity of Japan to protect its national interests and wield its sovereign rights including situations ranging from rescue of Japanese captives to coordinated military operations with U.S. to secure a ‘steady flow of oil to the country.’ Yes, the Prime Minister already had hinted for possible Japanese involvement in the Middle East. Jumping on the Bandwagon of Civilized Nations in a war against a common enemy is not too foreign a scenario for Japan. Unlike WWII, in this case however, there is the assurance of being on the winning side.
Japan has Means : Simply put, despite the outcries from the Japanese society, the Prime Minister and his conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s plan was successful. The National Security Bill has passed and Japan is on its way to militarization – again. This piece of new legislation explicitly frees Japanese Military from past restrictions to assist Allies fighting in foreign wars – for example, U.S. Since 2014, U.S. has been conducting air strikes on IS within Syrian territory. After President Obama declared his intent to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS, it is estimated that thousands of IS militants were killed in the targeted bombings. The conflict still is escalating as newly released IS video threatened France, Italy, and U.S. with bombings despite President Obama denounced it as not-credible. Established in 1954, the JSDF consists of 25.8 Million Active Personnel and a Budget of approximately 60 billion USD per year. GFP rated the overall military capabilities of JSDF as 9th in the world testifying to its readiness of man and firepower. Japan is ready.
The Question is, what is Prime Minister Abe waiting for?
True that Japan has no obligation to partake in this new war in that she is neither a Member of NATO nor a close ally of China and Russia. Moreover, the key provision requires the circumstances to present an existential threat to Japan’s security. This means that the newly applied measures do not require or force Japan to act, but rather provides it with the option to utilize military force when it is deemed necessary and appropriate.
As of a two-edged sword, these current international developments may serve as an opportunity as well as the cause for the demise of Prime Minister Abe and his Government. Successful missions overseas serving “Justice” or the protection of humankind against “evil,” will not only empower the Prime Minister’s justifications for the new Bill, but also serve to initiate an upsurge of patriotism and nationalism: (1) Joining the ranks of U.S., France, China, and Russia in military operations will guarantee the victory of Japan’s very first war since WWII, (2) Authorizing carefully orchestrated airstrikes in Syria is a limited military action which will allow the Government to retain Japanese military casualties to a minimum if not none, and (3) such intervention will pave way for Japan to gain access to oil reserves in the Middle East. However, bringing about any loss of lives which is an inevitable result of military operations while the controversy over the legislation is yet still lingers on may also even further inflame public outrage. The Japanese people out in the streets protesting against the Prime Minister wish to preserve their Pacifist position – to not see valuable Japanese lives lost at the whims of a war mongering leadership and foreign forces – at all costs. Most importantly, running the risk of terrorist attacks within Japanese territory is unwise to say the least. After-all, Wa(和) is the spirit of Japan.
It seems that the testing ground for Prime Minister Abe’s plan to once again militarize Japan is slowly presenting itself. When or to what extent Japan will partake in this warfare is yet unclear. In any case, it seems that we might witness JSDF soldiers on foreign soil much sooner than we have expected.
Joining in 2015, Ms. Aoyama is a Junior Associate at YULS. The comment, writing, or column does not represent the official position of YULS.