Submarines and stuff

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).


7 thoughts on “Submarines and stuff

  1. I read the Izumikawa article and didn’t buy the bit about Koizumi and faux traditionalism. From memory I believe it notes that he wasn’t particularly serious about ‘traditional’ causes and used them as ‘theatre.’ So supposedly the public just laughed it off when he, for example, went to Yasukuni. I get Izumikawa’s point that he had never been to the Shrine before becoming PM, but Koizumi was an acolyte of Fukuda Takeo, somebody who did play the traditionalist card quite often, and it is perhaps easy to see why Koizumi had an appreciation that traditionalism was a political force that he could use to his advantage. In any case, Izumikawa’s argument is about public opinion, and Koizumi’s status as a ‘true’ traditionalist didn’t really feature much in public discourse about the Shrine visits at the time as far as I can remember. Seems to me that the interpretation of the Shrine visits has been stretched too much to accommodate the theory.

  2. Bryce, yes I certainly see where you are coming from here. I have wondered about the designation of “traditionalism” that Izumikawa used but I think that his general point that domestic politics, even domestic issues, can influence security policy is reasonably robust – perhaps more than the cultural and symbolic politics aspect it is the perception of whether one is working on behalf of the “establishment” (perception being more important than reality here). In this sense Koizumi being the kind of “reform” candidate he was probably – as someone likely to enhance the vitality of Japanese democracy rather than the opposite – allowed more flexibility on foreign policy and security. I guess this can be contrasted with Kishi with his background and disregard for parliamentary process, and anpo, and with Miki and the NDPO who at the same time as strengthening Japan’s defense posture also strengthened restrictions on arms export, pushed for LDP reform, and continued to allow the prosecution of Tanaka Kakuei.

    Anyway I think it is only a contributing factor – the public quite rightfully distrusts anyone who is too eager and perhaps has been looking to preempt the process with their own personal views – but at the end of the day the content of the proposal/policy does actually matter. If a proposal to revise the constitution to allow collective self-defense was also included then all bets would be off.

  3. “I think that his general point that domestic politics, even domestic issues, can influence security policy is reasonably robust”

    I certainly don’t disagree there. In fact its the theme of a very, very long project I am working on.

    I’m pretty sure you and I agree on Koizumi too, at least the way you’ve framed it here. (I believe Izumikawa framed it somewhat differently). I have a rather different take on Miki than you do. One day I’ll let you know what it is. Right now, I too have a thesis to write.

    • Excellent – I certainly look forward to it – and reading your thesis/results from the project. There certainly seems to be a lack of good scholarly work on Japanese domestic politics and its influence on foreign/security policy.

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