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Cabinet Decides on New National Defense Program Guidelines Emphasizing Dynamic Mobility [ 2010.12.23 ]

[NewsJapan.net] At a cabinet meeting on December 17 the government decided on new National Defense Program Guidelines, which set the basic guidelines for national security policy for the decade starting in fiscal 2011, as well as a Mid-Term Defense Program for the five years from fiscal 2011 totaling approximately 23.49 trillion yen. This is the first revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines under an administration of the Democratic Party of Japan.

The Japanese media showed most interest in the fact that the new guidelines describe China’s increased military strength and naval advance as a matter of “concern for the regional and global community” and announce a shift from the conventional Cold War–era concept of “basic defense force” to a new concept of “dynamic defense force” emphasizing mobility and rapid response. In their December 17 evening editions three major newspapers prominently reported on the revision of the guidelines under the headlines “Vigilance against China’s military buildup, emphasis on Ryukyu [Nansei, or southwestern] Islands” (Yomiuri Shimbun), “Concern about China, emphasis on mobility” (Asahi Shimbun), and “Building a ‘dynamic defense force’; concern about China and southwestern shift” (Mainichi Shimbun).

Changing International Environment and Revisions of the National Defense Program Guidelines

The National Defense Program Guidelines indicate a framework for national security policy over the coming decade. They were first compiled in 1976 and revised in 1995 and 2004. The latest revision is therefore the first in six years. The main purpose of the 1976 guidelines, which were compiled during the Cold War, was to make preparations against the threat from the former Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Cold War setup, the 1995 guidelines included such functions in defense capability as international contributions and responding to large-scale disasters. Then in the 2004 revision, which came after the simultaneous terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, international peace cooperation operations in response to new threats, such as international terrorism, were upgraded to a primary duty of the Self-Defense Forces.

While the content changed in line with transformations in the international environment, though, the previous three guidelines all stipulated a defense setup by which SDF units were deployed evenly nationwide on the basis of the concept of “basic defense force.” This time, however, emphasizing the sharp changes and increased tension that have occurred in the region surrounding Japan, such as China’s continued increase of its defense spending and expansion of activities in surrounding waters, the revised guidelines clearly indicate that the concept of “basic defense force” will be replaced by a basic policy of “dynamic defense force.”

The Asahi (December 17, evening edition) gave a gist of the new National Defense Program Outlines as follows:
---North Korea’s military moves are a serious destabilizing factor, and China’s modernization of its military power and increased military force are a matter of concern to the regional and global community.
---A new “dynamic defense force” will be built to replace the conventional concept of “basic defense force.”
---Cold War-style equipment and organizations will be reduced, and surveillance, maritime patrol, air defense, ballistic missile defense, and other capabilities will be improved, including those in southwestern Japan.
---Units will be deployed to outlying islands where there is currently no presence.
---Defenses against cyber attacks will be strengthened.
---A body will be set up in the Prime Minister's Office dedicated to security policy coordination among relevant ministries and acting as advisory to the Prime Minister.
---Measures will be promoted to make the stationing of the US military in Japan smooth and effective.
---Japan will consider measures to respond to such major changes as the international joint development and production of weapons.

Major Newspaper Editorials

The five major newspapers all carried editorials on the concept change behind Japan’s national security policy.

The Yomiuri editorial (December 19) gave a positive evaluation of the guidelines, saying, “The days are gone when the SDF could remain a passive organization. . . . Deterrence can work only when the SDF is seen deploying its units to perform various duties. Adoption of such a dynamic defense capability as the concept of the new defense guidelines would be an appropriate policy switch in the dramatically changing security landscape we face today.” Referring to the need for further formation reform of the SDF, it went on, “If the balance of the SDF had been considered in a comprehensive manner, more GSDF [Ground Self-Defense Force] personnel would have been cut in addition to the reduction in tanks and artillery that has been decided upon in the guidelines. At the same time, the fixed strength of personnel in the Air and Maritime Self-Defense Forces and the number of their vessels and aircraft should have been increased.”

On the other hand, the Asahi editorial (December 18) commented, “The security situation in East Asia is becoming increasingly unstable. Japan’s shift from its traditional restrained stance to a policy of actively responding to threats has huge diplomatic implications. This policy change could not just irk China, and thereby heighten tension in the region, but also cause the world to doubt Japan’s commitment to its pacifist principle of maintaining a strictly defensive posture.” Noting that military power is just one function complementing politics and diplomacy, it added critically, “The new defense policy contains few references to conflict prevention---efforts to prevent the escalation of disputes by using a combination of military power, diplomatic effort, and economic and development aid.”

The Mainichi editorial (December 18) stated, “Revisions to the defense program based on the current security environment in East Asia will be effective and necessary. Still, it is obvious that measures to counter China’s military buildup cannot be the core of Japan’s policy toward China, considering China’s role in the international community and future Japan-China relations. What Japan needs now is to launch a comprehensive China strategy in all fields, including politics, economy, diplomacy, and security, on the assumption that Japan will expand and deepen its reciprocal relations with its rising neighbor.”

The Nikkei editorial (December 18) basically welcomed the new guidelines, although with reservations. Referring to such issues as China’s beefed-up naval force and North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, it remarked, “The National Defense Program Guidelines can be said to have indicated a correct direction, but there is still a lot of homework to be done. For example, the efficiency of the Ground Self-Defense Force is still inadequate.” At the end of the editorial, however, The Nikkei commented on the fact that the new guidelines had put off a review of Japan’s three principles on the export of arms. It said, “With some exceptions for the United States, which is an ally, these principles prohibit the export of not only weapons but also related technology, so Japan cannot participate in the international joint development and production of military equipment. This is one reason for the high cost of procuring equipment. The government should continue its consideration of relaxing the ban.”

The Sankei Shimbun editorial (December 18) expressed its hopes for the new organization in the Prime Minister’s Office, saying, “We can positively welcome the clear statement that a body will be established to give advice to the prime minister, like a Japanese version of the US National Security Council.” It went on, “[The problem is] how to connect the concept of ‘dynamic defense force,’ which is being introduced in place of ‘basic defense force,’ to a defense capability that really does protect the peace and security of the Japanese people.” The Sankei expressed disappointment that the new guidelines had not shown any clear conclusion on such issues as a change in the interpretation of the Constitution to permit exercise of the right of collective self-defense and revision of the three principles on the export of arms.

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