Well with the Japanese government’s National Defense Program Guidelines (or NDPO if you prefer – 防衛計画大綱) just around the corner the likely contents are slowly but surely (purposively) leaking out. In addition to the arms export ban relaxation and new (old) military terms, there are some other developments; most of which have been quite well telegraphed in advance throughout the year – and many of the ideas from the PM’s panel report ”Vision for Future Security and Defense Capabilities in the New Era” have been included, relaxation of the 3 non-nuclear principles aside.
First of all the “Standard Defense Force Concept” which required even deployment of forces throughout the country will be abandoned in favour of narrower deployment to the southern part of Japan and including deployment beyond the main Okinawan islands as surveillance and radar capabilities beyond miyako-jima have been judged to be insufficient at this point in time.
In response to increased Chinese naval activity, there is not only a proposal to alter the balance of deployment, but to move from a static deterrence concept to a “dynamic deterrence capability.” There thus will be a drastic reduction in heavy, cold-war style weapons systems such as tanks and artillery in favour of greater mobility and rapid response capabilities, and naval survelliance capabilities. And also submarines. And in particular, submarines, it would seem.
Probably not a moment too soon given a bipartisan US report published recently which suggested that Chinese missile modernization had advanced to the point where US bases in Japan are now under threat. Apparently only Guam is safe for the time being. This is not going to help the argument for continued US Marine presence in Okinawa I feel. (From either side of the fence – for a particularly challenging US perspective this is worth a read. )
There will also be some relaxation on the rules for the use of weapons during peacekeeping missions. Will the use of weapons while policing during PKOs be permitted?
There will not only be an increase in joint exercises between US and Japanese forces but as suggested earlier there will also be more exploration of the possibilities for joint basing arrangements in the Kyushu and Okinawa areas.
Asahi article - 南西海域防衛、陸自・潜水艦の増強案 民主、中国念頭に
Mainichi article - 武器輸出三原則：「緩和を」 民主・防衛大綱提言素案、禁止国を限定
As an aside I am grateful for the prior indications. My official PhD proposal is due the end of this month and these developments are relevant – and well, useful for the approach I am taking. The interesting thing about much of this is that the timing is both auspicious and problematic at the same time. While in reality the process has actually been quite steady – this review of Japan’s defense posture was originally put back a year after the DPJ came into office – the timing makes it look much like this is a reaction to Chinese activity despite many of the adjustments were likely to have been made anyway (which may, or may not be the look you are going for.) On the other hand Chinese activity makes it considerably easier to adopt a more active defense approach without raising public concern. The fact that it is the “leftist” DPJ doing this, rather than the “conservative” LDP, is also a factor. The Japanese public tends to be more accepting of changes in security posture when such changes are not being advocated by perceived arch-conservatives or “traditionalists” (of which Koizumi to be sure, is not, despite his Yasukuni excursions – if you have university library access this article by Izumikawa Yasuhiro at Kobe University is of interest in this regard).