Saturday, May 27, 2017

Japan's Post-War Constitution, its Defense Forces, and Nuclear Sovereignty

The head of Japan's Self-Defense forces was recently censured in Japan for making comments that could be interpreted as supporting changes to Japan's pacifist constitution:
Ryo Aibara (2017, May 26). Row ignites over SDF chief’s views on constitutional amendment. The Asahi Shimbun,, retrieved May 27, 2017

The Self-Defense Forces’ top officer is under fire for publicly welcoming Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s proposal to amend the Constitution to declare the legal status of the SDF.

... Kawano, 62, sparked controversy on May 23 when he said: “If I may speak as one member of the SDF, I would be very grateful if a provision for the SDF’s legal status is clearly written in the Constitution.” ...

... Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party, said at a session of the Lower House Commission on the Constitution on May 25: “(His) remark is interpreted as one ‘supporting the constitutional revision.’”

She added: “He should take seriously criticism that his comment amounts to a violation of the SDF law.” SDF members’ political activities are restricted under Chapter 61 of the SDF law.
Japan's Self-Defense forces, the LDP, and other entities in Japan support the nation's full sovereignty over its external defenses, expanding the role of the Self-Defense Forces beyond internal policing.

Japan's post-WW II constitution and security legislation (see Wikipedia on Japan's Self-Defense Forces ) relied on the US nuclear umbrella for external security and Japan's Self-Defense Forces for internal security, or policing.

Pacifism was written into Japan's constitution and supported by Emporer Akihito.[i] Article 9 under Chapter II “Renunciation of War” stipulates that the Japanese people forever renounce war and the threat or use of force:
Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.[ii]

Although Article-9 has not yet been unaltered,[iii] successive Japanese administrations have reinterpreted its language to expand the nation’s “defense” capabilities across time.

Complex dynamics drive these revisions, among them are (1) the nature of the security relationship and the attendant “nuclear umbrella” established between Japan and the US after World War II (2) geo-political tensions with Russia, China and North & South Korea (including territorial disputes) and, relatedly, (3) military-industrial interests and market aspirations.

In 2016, Prime Minister Abe introduced new security legislation that allow more active deployment of the nation’s Defense Forces,[iv] a policy of expansion supported publicly in 2017 by its leader Katsutoshi Kawano, 5th Chief of Staff, Joint Staff since 2014.[v]

 The LDP party has articulated national security and national defense as equivalent terms, while contextualizing the latter within a Hobbesian sovereignty. Japan seeks sovereignty, including nuclear sovereignty, yet is also bound to its pacifist constitution, institutions, authorities, and cultural values.

Paradoxical injunctions surfaced in August 2016 when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s newly appointed and hawkish defense minister Tomomi Inada was quoted in The Mainichi as stating: "Under the Constitution, there are no restrictions on the types of weapons that Japan can possess as the minimum necessary," with the “minimum necessary” for defensive purposes.

When pressed to respond, Abe noted that, "Her statement is consistent with the government's policy” but he simultaneously ruled out possibility of Japan pursuing nuclear weapons in violation of its non-proliferation status.[vi]

In the absence of an official nuclear weapons program, nuclear power – especially breeder reactors and MOX fuel re-cycling programs - guarantee the capacity for national defense, thought in terms of nuclear sovereignty (seeMajia's Blog: Why Does Japan Insist on Reprocessing Nuclear Fuel?). For more background:
How Nuclear Energy in Japan Got Linked to National Security
Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority Blasts Joyo Breeder Reactor Program

[i] Bloomberg View: Emperor Akihito plays defense on Japan’s constitution. Bloomberg, August 10, 2016,

[ii] Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet. The Constitution of Japan,, accessed April 13, 2016.

[iii] Abe explicit in call for amendment to Constitution’s Article 9. 2016. The Japan Times, February 3, 2016,

[iv] Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg, “Huge protest in Tokyo rails against PM Abe's security bills,” Reuters (August 30, 2015): date accessed September 8, 2015:

[v] Katsutoshi Kawano (2017, May 11) Wikipedia,, accessed May 27, 2017

[vi] Abe rules out nukes but new defense minister. “Abe rules out possibility that Japan will possess nuclear weapons”
Aug 6, 2016,

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