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Time to discuss 'national' security


Today, the Japanese people are confronted with a dual threat from within and beyond our borders. Inside, we have a government that opts to enforce laws against the will of the vast majority of the people; a genuine threat to our democracy. Outside, we have 'unfriendly' neighbors who take advantage of our not-so-proud past for internal political gains or proceed to intimidate us and our neighbors with clandestine military operations; a genuine threat to our 'state' security. Together, these two threats represent a threat to the 'national' security of the people of Japan.

We have to re-define, or correctly define what is threat to our 'national' security and what 'national security' is. National security, when spoken by our government representatives, often is more about 'state' security than about the security of the people. It's more about maritime and aerial borders. It's more about economic and geopolitical implications. It's more about territorial integrity of our 'state' than well-being and safety of our 'nation.'

Safety vs. Security

The first role of any government is to protect its people's lives and asset. This is a given. But there is increasingly a growing divide between what people view as "safety" versus what the government view as "security" in Japan, all spoke in the same context but with different meaning, but in the same word; 'anzen'.

The government views security ('anzen') as a need to control the flow of information, or protect social order from being vandalized by anti-social actives defined by themselves. They view security as the need to control the flow of people, goods, ideas, and even thoughts. They view security as the need to control the borders, maintain the territorial integrity of our state.

For the government, It's all about about control.

The people view safety ('anzen') as a need to feel safe about food, about being free from expressing their rights, about being free from expressing dissent. We view safety as being free from making informed choices, moving freely between internal borders to escape from what we deems as threats to our individual and collective health of a family, free from being intoxicated by propaganda information on television, Internet, and from education. We view safety as a collective need to feel secure from all of the above and more.

For us, it's all about freedom. Freedom from fear or want.

So in fact the designs of the government to create a 'secure society' and people's desire to have a 'safe society' is in direct conflict from the onset of its inception. Control does not bode well with the desire for more freedom. In fact it's the exact opposite. So the people's demand, and the government's supply does not match at all. It even clashes. What the government seeks to provide is at best tertiary to what the people needs.

So how can this gap be amended?

We the people need to re-define what 'national security' means. We need to understand and accept from the viewpoint of state security what is essential and what is not. The government needs to understand , accept, and act out from the viewpoint to serve the people's interest  on what is essential and what may be  not. So we have to do our homework on our side. as much as the government needs to on their side as well.

The people needs to understand what is the basic minimum defense posture needed to maintain the 'security of a state.

First of all, do we need armed forces, or in our unique pacifist lingo and legal implementation, the Self-Defense Force capable of defending our territories, us the people, and deter threats together with the presence of the U.S. military in Japan?

Should we delve into the Constitutional question of whether the SDF is legal or not or whether the alliance with the U.S. is legal or not?

Or should w e at least advance our discussion to the next level to determine how appropriate our defense posture is with the current framework of Japan-U.S. alliance where Japan has the obligation to do its utmost to protect the nation when under attack and where the U.S. Forces in Japan has the obligation to protect Japan and if attacked fight on its own?

Where is our acceptable line of a definition for "national defense"? What is our average, acceptable view of how our 'national security' should be maintained? Have we actually discussed the substance of this ever before?

Learning the Facts

Here are some if not all of the facts surrounding our security environment.


  • October1945, the UN Charter goes into force and the right to individual and collective self-defense has been guaranteed as inherent right of any nation under Article 51 of the Charter.
  • September 1951, Japan sign the former Japan-U.S. Security Treaty
  • July 1954,  JSDF is established under the secret agreement.
  • December 1957, the right to self-defense was confirmed in the  Supreme Court supplementary opinion.
  • October 1972, the right to exercise the right of collective self-defense was  denied through government interpretation.
  • June 1992, the Peace keeping Operations Law was enacted to allow deployment of JSDF to UN-sanctioned operations under the three principles.
  • October 2001, the National Diet approves the Special Anti-Terror Operations Act which allows the deployment of MSDF to the Indian Ocean to support the allies in Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan through refueling missions.
  • January 2004, the GSDF was deployed for the first time to a warzone in Iraq.
  • June 2004, the contingency laws are enacted in anticipation of contingency situation in the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan which included 7 related legislation
  • March 2007, the Defense Agency is promoted to a Ministry of Defense.
  • July 2007, Japan acceded to the Rome Statute for the Establishment of International Court in and accepted ICC's jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • June 2009, the National Diet approves a permanent Anti-Piracy Operations Act which allows the deployment of MSDF to the Gulf of Aden for multinational anti-piracy activities.
  • July 2014, the Cabinet Decision to allow re-interpretation of the right to collective self-defense and expanded use of force and increased role in UN and non-UN sanctioned activities was approved.
  • July 2015, a package defense bill of 11 draft legislation were passed in the Lower House of the National Diet by sole vote of the majority coalition.  <-- WE ARE HERE

Key Points to remember:

  • The constitutionality of JSDF has not been determined.
  • Under the current law, JSDF does not:
    • Employ Rules of Engagement unless in PKO
    • Have a military tribunal system
    • Retain war potential to attack other country
    • Have the right to defend our allies even upon attack
  • Under the current constitution, Japan does not:
    • Retain war potential
    • Have right to belligerency
    • Have right to use or threat to use force to resolve international conflicts
    • exercise the right to collective self-defense  though it retains the right to do so
  • Until today, the JSDF has been:
    • Deployed to the Indian Ocean for a refueling mission with OEF-MIO led by the U.S. for 9 years (Afghanistan)
    • Deployed once to a war-zone administered by the U.S.  for 3 years (Iraq)
    • Deployed to the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy operations since 2008
    • Deployed to 15 missions of UN peacekeeping operations in: 
      • Cambodia (UNTAC)
      • Mozambique
      • Rwanda
      • Golan Heights (UNDOF)
      • Timor Leste (UNTAET/UNMIT)
      • Afghanistan
      • Iraq
      • Nepal (UNMIN)
      • Sudan (UNMIS)
      • Haiti (MINUSTAH)
      • South Sudan (UNMISS)
    • Deployed to many countries for for disaster relief  operations:
      • Indonesia (Sumatra Tsunami Relief/Air Asia R&R)
      • Pakistan (Earthquake Relief)
      • Haiti (Tsunami Relief)
      • The Philippines (Typhoon Relief)
      • Malaysia (ML370 Search & Rescue)
      • Honduras (Hurricane Relief)
      • Turkey (Earthquake Relief)
      • India (Earthquake Relief)
      • Iran (Earthquake Relief)
      • Thailand (Earthquake/Tsunami Relief)
      • Russia (Submarine Incident Rescue)
      • New Zealand (Earthquake Relief)
      • Ghana (Anti-Ebola Relief)

This is where we stand today in how we have employed our unique defensive capability, not mentioning the numerous national disaster relief efforts the JSDF has engaged since its establishment including the Great Kobe Earthquake and the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

So regardless of where it stands in the Constitution we have a highly capable, efficient and reliable defense force which we maintain to ensure the 'national security' of this country. It has deterred many attempts by a potentially hostile forces and it continues to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Japan, along with the U.S. Forces in Japan.

This is a given.

Questions that remain unanswered

The questions posed by the new security legislation were to expand the role, scope, the capability, the interoperability with U.S. Forces in Japan and abroad, of the JSDF. These questions remain unanswered:
  •  Do we need to?  Is it absolutely necessary? 
  •  Is it worth the cost and/or risk? 
  •  What will change? What won't change? 
  •  How does it affect the present situation in volatile regions, such as the South China Sea or the Senkaku Islands?
  •  How would it affect our children when they grow up? Will they be drafted?

Unfortunately, the government hasn't been able to provide us with clear answers even after 110 hours-strong deliberation in the Lower House of the National Diet, or direct appearance of the Prime Minister in a special 90-minute TV show to explain and respond to Q&As all by himself using a blob-like figure that supposedly represents a fire to be collectively extinguished for the security of Japan and the rest of the world by applying the new legislation.

The government blames the opposition parties for focusing too much of its questions on the constitutionality and legality of the legislation which they deem periphery to what the legislation actually stands for. However, legality is the entry point of any legislation as controversial and significant as this and a clear, uncontested answer should have been provided. But the government could not. All three constitutional experts handed down the judgment that the legislation is flawed with violations to the Constitution.

As a result the debate was forcefully cut short and without consent from the opposition the ruling coalition steamrollered the bills and placed on the plenary vote. The bills passed, with no consensus from the opposition or from the public. Most recent polls show  that more than 60 percent of the public still believe that the bill hasn't been explained in full to qualify to be put to a vote. As a result, more than 100,000 people gathered in front of the National Diet and LDP Headquarters to protest against the steamrollering on a weekly basis.

In order to appease this strong public resentment, the government needs to be able to answer at least the following five questions in the next 57 days:

  1. WHY is it necessary?
  2. WHAT would be the cost/risk of its implementation?
  3. WHAT would be the estimated immediate/mid-term/long-term effect be like?
  4. HOW does it help to resolve current disputes?
  5. HOW would it affect the general household in the long-run?


Without being able to supply even a part of the answers to these fundamental questions, the ruling coalition is doomed to fail. The people wants to feel 'safe' not 'secure'. The government thinks we can be more 'secure' while we don't feel 'safe' at all listening to their reasoning (if there is any).

While the government struggles to find the logical answers, we the people should also delve to deepen our understanding on the actual pros and cons of this legislation. provided that we at leas acquire the basic understanding of where we stand. Then we can finally compare  and evaluate the pros and cons to make an informed decision. And we can all self-educate ourselves so we can be better prepared to scrutinize the often optimistic best-case-scenario answers the government would provide.

When we the people have a good understanding of the actual security situation, understand our 'safety' needs, we can then rightfully and convincingly give the government, a definite NO. Giving an YES is not an option, but we must have a good reason. That would form the basis of our own security legislation that would guarantee not only the security of the state, but the safety of the nation; us.

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