chapter  1
19 Pages

Increasing threat perceptions and anti- militarist norms


Introduction National security in postwar Japan was based on the US-Japan Security Treaty and Japan’s own defense capabilities (Yoshida doctrine), and this arrangement was flanked by diplomatic attempts to build an international reputation and role as a civilian power whose ambition was more in the area of trade and development assistance (comprehensive security, Fukuda doctrine). This arrangement allowed Japan to focus on economic development and developing bi-and multilateral relations while limiting its own defense capabilities (three non-nuclear principles, defensive defense) and defense expenditure of less than 1 percent of GDP. Despite strong protests following the establishment of the SDF in 1954 and the revision of the AMPO Treaty in 1960, by the mid-1960s, the vast majority of Japanese supported this security arrangement because it not only provided for Japan’s national security, but it also ensured that Japan could develop economically and provide a generally positive image as a peaceful state with no ambitions to threaten its neighbors again (Berger 1998). Such foreign and defense policies hinge on public support. Thomas Berger (1998), Peter Katzenstein (1996), Glenn Hook (1996) and others have emphasized that Japanese national security identity throughout the postwar period was based on a strong preference of anti-militarist norms among the elite and general public alike. However, the question they raised just a few years after the end of the Cold War was whether Japan had become a genuinely “non-militarist” country with strong public support for peaceful and multilateral ways to deal with international conflicts and a country that has perhaps “learned from history” (Berger 1998), or whether Japan’s foreign and defense policy, given the changes in the post-Cold War security environment, might now be open to change. Indeed, the post-Cold War development of Japanese foreign and defense policy seems to indicate that Japan has been trying to come to terms with a changed international system and has begun to re-assess the value of the Yoshida doctrine and comprehensive security. Triggered in part by accusations of “checkbook diplomacy” and “hiding behind article 9” after Japan’s inability to dispatch its SDF to assist the alliance

forces in liberating Kuwait in 1990/1991, there was sufficient international pressure on the government and the Diet to act. The 1992 so-called PKO (peacekeeping operation) law, which, for the first time, enabled Japanese SDF to be deployed in UNPKOs abroad seemed to be the first step to demonstrate that Japan is capable of adopting greater international responsibility. After the first successful missions to Cambodia, Angola and Mozambique, the 1993 change of the election system, the Japan Socialist Party’s renunciation of the unconstitutionality of the SDF and the US-Japan Security Treaty, and after the subsequent de-ideologization of foreign policy issues, it was time for Japan to re-assess its international role. What followed, was a series of changes. Beginning with the revised defense guidelines in 1997, which included the infamous expansion of Japanese defense responsibilities to “areas surrounding Japan,” the changes included rear-area support for US troops during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, recent further integration of the Japanese military in the US command structure, and the deployment of SDF to Iraq in 2004.1 Although two-thirds of the Japanese public was still opposed to the Iraq mission in late 2003 and early 2004, the Iraq deployment triggered only relatively small protests in Tokyo and a few other Japanese cities. Once Japanese SDF soldiers arrived in Samawah, and pictures of them and the positive reaction of the local population appeared on Japanese television, public opinion turned around. In March 2004, a small majority now supported the deployment. It seemed like a classical “boots on the ground” effect (Vosse 2012; Midford, 2011). Moreover, the public image of SDF has long been quite positive (in the 1970s and 1980s between 60 percent and 75 percent), but has improved even further in the postCold War era. In a Cabinet Office (CAO) poll, 67 percent expressed a positive image about the SDF in 1991, this number has risen to 91 percent in 2012 (CAO, Government of Japan 2012). This positive image is equally shared among all age groups and is virtually equally strong for both men and women. In another survey in 2003, 44 percent of the Japanese claimed they were proud of their military forces.2 The level of pride for the armed forces in Japan was higher than in (West) Germany (35 percent) or South Korea (33 percent), two countries where soldiers are much more visible and where their recent achievements are more likely to be reported in the media. The level in Japan is comparable to that in Russia (45 percent), but significantly lower than in the United States (93 percent), the United Kingdom (90 percent), and Australia (87 percent), where support and a feeling of being proud is almost universal (ISSP 2003). On the other hand, the majority of Japanese do not want to see a significant change in the size of the SDF or the defense budget. From 1990 to 2012, around 65 percent wanted to keep its size and capability unchanged. However, between 1997 and 2000, the share of those who prefer an increase of the SDF capabilities almost doubled from 7.5 percent to 13.5 percent. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the SDF deployment to Iraq had very little influence on support for increased military capacity. However, between 2009 and 2012, support to increase military capacity almost doubled again from 14.1 percent (2009) to 24.8 percent (2012) (CAO, Government of Japan 2012).