By Bolor Lkhaajav
Analyst of the Mongolian Institute for Geopolitical Studies.
Research Intern at the Ricci Institute, M.A. in Asia-Pacific Studies University of San Francisco; Contributing Writer at The Diplomat.
In our 21st century’s political environment, the rise and fall of a nation or a policy shift affect other countries regionally and globally. The rise of People’s Republic of China (PRC) and its political, economic, and military influence has become apparent regionally and internationally. Experts in the field of security studies have focused on the PRC’s economic and military development and how it affects Japan, South Korea, and other regional actors geopolitically.
Although heavily debated and controversial, Japan’s 2014 constitutional revision has viewed as a reaction to China’s rise via economic and military means. Japan’s constitutional revision dictates a new vision for defense, foreign, and security policies to protect and expand its national interest while nationalizing islands, such as Senkaku Islands. As regional political dynamics change rapidly, some security experts are supportive of the Japanese governments policy changes. This paper will provide a historical aspect of the 1947 Constitution and its implications, then assess how Article 9 has prevented Japan from being involved in international affairs. Finally, this paper will present how the Japanese government will balance between the two powers, the US and China. For the Japanese government to strategize a careful balance between the US and China, defense, foreign, and security policies may favor the US support while economic and bilateral relations could be strengthened with China.
Keywords: Japanese Constitution, Article Nine, security policy, maritime security, China
The unconditional surrender of the Empire of Japan in 1945 has stripped Japan from its military power and ambitions. On July 26, 1945, Japan has accepted its surrender by signing the Potsdam Declaration. The following years would allow the heavy influence of the United States in reframing the constitution, foreign and security policies in which Japan was to conform. The Japanese constitution was promulgated on November 3, 1946, and came into effect on May 3, 1947. After the Japanese war atrocities during WWII in the Asia-Pacific, newly implemented Constitution’s Article 9 has changed Japan’s foreign and national security into a pacifist policy framework.
The Japanese Constitution, Chapter 2, Renunciation of War
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 potentials, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
The Article 9 therefore, prohibits Japan’s right to declare war against any country or state and prevents Japanese self-defense force (SDF) to be involved in international conflict by land, sea, and air forces. The concern of Article 9 does not only involve Japan’s international commitment but also reflects the overall Japanese defense force. The reinterpretation of Article 9 thus involves major defense, foreign and security policy re-framing of as well as Japanese national security strategies in response to both international and regional threats.
The constitutional revision was initiated only five years after its implementation in 1947. Japan’s first post-world war Prime Minister, Shigeru Yoshida has implemented pacifist policies but was always aware of the fact that constitutional restrictions could lead to interdependence on the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960. According to Shuichi Wada, a Professor of International Relations and Security Studies at Heisei International University in Kazo, Japan, as a post-WWII administration, Yoshida’s strategy was to avoid any confrontations involving Article 9, at the same time prosper economically. Therefore, Yoshida Doctrine supported pacifist policy frameworks such as, “(1) expanding Japan’s overseas market share; (2) avoiding more than minimal defense spending; (3) avoiding involvement in international political disputes; (4) avoiding a resort to the use of force if involved in disputes; (5) reducing actual or potential international tensions through diplomatic means.” While Japanese economy grew because of its pacifist position, external wars and other geopolitical issues were inevitable. The Yoshida doctrine was supportive of the Article 9’s prevention of military spending, involvement, and expansion and was implemented and executed until the early 1970’s. Throughout the Cold War, Japan’s position was restricted by the 1947 Constitution and the greater context of Article 9.
In January 1960, an American envoy led by Douglas MacArthur has signed the US-Japan Security Treaty. The US-Japan Security Treaty was a double-edged sword during the Cold War, which advocated the expansion of American interest in the Asia-Pacific but also secured Japan’s security issues. The combination of the US-Japan Security Treaty and Article 9’s prohibition of Japan’s military use, created economic development opportunities for Japan throughout 1980 to early 2000’s. However, while Japan mainly focused on economic developments, PRC, India, South Korea, and Taiwan were slowly but surely invested in renewing their military technology, tactics, and national security strategy. Noticing the regional changes, Junichiro Koizumi’s administration has consistently pushed for constitutional revision that concerns both defense and foreign policies between 2004-2005.
External Factors Influenced Defense, Foreign, and Security Policies
The Japanese constitutional revision and reinterpretation of Article 9 was coerced by number of external factors both regionally and internationally. As events tailored in the Middle East after September 11, 2001, the international community was committed to contributing to counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. The United Nations (UN) has passed a Resolution 1373 which created the Counter Terrorism Committee (CTC) on September 28, 2001. The UN Security Council accepted the resolution, therefore allowing member countries to assemble a coalition force to combat terrorism throughout the Middle East and Central Asia in some cases. Following the UN resolution 1373, the Koizumi administration enacted Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law to send Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) to support the US navy from the Indian Ocean in 2001. Japan, prohibited by its own pacifist Constitution, not being able to send boots on the ground, sought indirect approach to uphold the US-Japan security alliance. In May 2003, the Japanese government has passed Japan’s Counter-terrorism Assistance (JCTA) foreign policy. Although the JCTA were committed to six areas (Immigration, Aviation Security, Customs Cooperation, Export Control, Law-Enforcement cooperation, and Anti-Terrorist financing), these actions and measurements were only applied in the Asia-Pacific region. When implementing the 2003 foreign policy, Article 9’s “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” has prevented Japanese troops to go abroad. Thus, one can speculate that the 1947 Constitution’s Article 9 did not meet the realities of Japan’s security needs in an international environment.
Since the early 2000’s, Research Commission on the Constitution was established in the Diet. Junichiro Koizumi and Yukio Hatoyama administrations have prioritized renewing, revising Japan’s foreign policy framework and its implications not just in the Asia-Pacific but internationally. Although both administrations were leaning towards Asia-oriented East Asian Community (EAC) platforms, EAC’s security matters were heavily influenced by maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea (SCS), East China Sea (ECS), and North Korea’s nuclear weapon’s crisis. These security issues have a great influence in Japan’s Article 9 revision. While Japan’s foreign and security policies are defense based, by changing the SDF to SDM, Japan will be permissible to thwart any land, sea, air threat from homeland without consulting with the US. Also, the strengthening of the US-Japan Security Alliance and militarized Japan could provide a security umbrella for Eastern bloc to safeguard trade ports, freedom of navigation (FoN), Senkaku Islands, and North Korea’s nuclear threat. North Korea’s nuclear threat and China’s ambition in the SCS and ECS have provoked tensions between many nations in the Asia-Pacific region. As illustrated below, competing claims made by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan has cautioned the Japanese counterpart in the ECS involving Senkaku Islands.
From a geopolitical perspective, the overwhelming escalation of maritime tensions between these nations jeopardizes the overall peace and security of the Asia-Pacific. In Japan’s case, the reinterpretation of the Article 9 directly relates how Japan will handle maritime issues land, sea, and by air in the ECS. According to the Defense Ministry of Japan, “In recent years, China has rapidly intensified its activities surrounding Japan’s airspace, expanded its operational areas, and diversified its flight patterns.”
The Senkaku Islands dispute between Japan and China has escalated in 2013 when Shinzo Abe has attempted to nationalize the islands. Gen Nakatani, who has served as a Head of the Defense Agency under Koizumi administration was appointed as the Minister of Defense under Shinzo Abe’s administration. Nakatani has indicated the increasing Chinese aggression in the ECS surrounding Senkaku Islands in his Press Conference in 2016. As China-Japan relations gets cold in the ECS, the Japanese strategy to balance between China and the US is indeed challenged.
Although heavily controversial, constitutional revision is not a new topic. Aforementioned, even during the Shigeru Yoshida administration in 1954, revision of the constitution was discussed in the Upper House and the national Diet. In May 2007, Shinzo Abe, Koizumi’s successor has passed a legislation to advance constitution revision process. The 2007 legislation has illustrated the Japanese government’s commitment to constitutional reform, and by reforming, changes in foreign and security policies were to follow. Shinzo Abe’s commitment was influenced by number of factors that could change the Asia-Pacific’s security dynamics. The newly proposed Article 9 will allow Japan to deter maritime security issues and North Korea’s nuclear capability. The same year, to deter regional threats, Shinzo Abe’s administration has upgraded the Japan Defense Agency (JDA) to become Ministry of Defense. The following years would allow the Abe administration to heavily focus on reinterpretation of Article 9 despite anti-Abe, anti-war sentiment raised by the Japanese people. The draft of the newly amended Article 9 presents a new course to the Japanese defense, foreign, and security policy framework. According to the 2014 Draft Amendment of the Constitution of Japan’s Article 9, Chapter II: National Security part:
“The 1947, 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.
The 2014, Draft of new Article 9: “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people (Omitted: “forever”) renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and will not employ the threat and use of force as a means of settling international disputes. The provisions in the preceding paragraph shall not prevent the exercise of the right to self-defense.”
As illustrated above, Japan’s constitutional revision and reinterpretation of Article 9 will allow Japan to be more flexible to balance between the US and China. The reinterpretation also allows nationalization of Senkaku Islands. To pursue this balance, the US and Japan has reviewed its security treaty in 2015.
Increasingly hostile security issues that involve China’s militarization, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the SCS and ECS maritime territorial disputes have given incentive for the Japanese government to review and reframe many of its policies. The reinterpretation of Article 9 entails switch in foreign policies between pro-US or pro-China. More realistically, a balanced approach of moderate-US and moderate-China is preferred. According to Dr. Atamassova-Cornelis, a Lecturer in East Asian Politics at the School of Political and Social Sciences, Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL), and at the Department of Politics, University of Antwerp (UA) in Belgium, Japanese government is seeking a strategic balanced approach towards China’s rise in the East and America’s “rebalancing Asia” foreign policy. The assumptions and speculations on the Article 9 reinterpretation, will allow the Japanese policymakers to find a balanced approach while maintaining good relations with the US by strengthening the US-Japan Security Pact at the same time not neglecting China. Although China’s rise has threatened other regional actors, it also forced countries to be more alert on regional issues, not just China alone.
The greatest challenge for the Japanese government is to balance between the US and China while strengthening and protecting its national interest regionally and internationally. While diplomatic dialogues prevent from escalations, it does not provide a long-term solution either. For Japan to implement moderate US and moderate China foreign policy, the Japanese policymakers must carefully review the reactions of both the US and China’s when Constitutional revision and reinterpretation of Article 9. Experts in the field argue that, if Japan’s position were to switch to moderate China, the US alliance system would decline. On the same thought, if Japan’s position were to take hardline, anti-China approach, economic and military escalation may exist in ECS. And this will eventually drag the US to bigger security dilemma with China. From a security standpoint, this scenario does not benefit either side. Therefore, Japan’s careful examination of regional geopolitical strategy, constitutional revision, amendment of the Article 9 may allow Japan to re-frame its foreign and security policies towards greater international effort while strengthening economic bilateral relations with China and reaffirm the US-Japan security alliance system. One might perceive the derailing the US-Japan relations, however, while the US interest in Asia-Pacific is great, Japan as a longtime partner, will be strengthening its security alliance and support each other on the international arena.
- Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, “Maritime Claims Map.” Accessed November 23, 2016 https://amti.csis.org/maritime-claims-map/.
- “Draft for the Amendment of the Constitution of Japan (in contrast to the current Constitution)” Accessed November 23, 2016, http://www.voyce-jpn.com/ldp-draft-constitution.
- Elana Atanassova-Cornelis, “Shifting Domestic Politics and Security Policy in Japan and Taiwan: The Research for a Balancing Strategy between China and the US.” Asia-Pacific Review (2013): 55-78.
- Ilai Z. Saltzman, “Growing Pains: Neoclassical Realism and Japan’s Security Emancipation.” Contemporary Security Policy (2015): 498-527.
- Joo Young Lee, “Narrating War: Newspaper Editorials on Japan’s Defense and Security Policy between Militarism and Peace.” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis (2016): 365-382.
- Kaiken genjitsu no kadai no, Kokumin Tohyo-ho seiritsu’ (Constitutional revision becomes a real agenda item: passage of National Referendum Law) (2007) Yomiuru Shimbun, Accessed November 23, 2016.
- Ministry of Defense of Japan, “China’s Activities Surrounding Japan’s Airspace.” Accessed November 23, 2016. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_act/ryouku/.
- Ministry of Defense of Japan, “Press Conference by the Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.” January 12, 2016. Accessed November 23, 2016. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/pressconf/2016/01/160112.html
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan’s Counter-terrorism Assistance.” May 2003. Accessed November 23, 2016 http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/terrorism/assist0306.html.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japanese Territory.” Accessed November 23 2016 http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/senkaku/basic_view.html.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Japan-US Security Treaty.” January 19, 1960. Accessed November 23, 2016 http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/n-america/us/q&a/ref/1.html.
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation.” Accessed November 23, 2016 http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000078188.pdf.
- Permanent Court of Arbitration, “The South China Sea Arbitration.”July 12, 2016. Accessed November 23, 2016 https://pca-cpa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/175/2016/07/PH-CN-20160712-Award.pdf.
- Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, “The Constitution of Japan.” Accessed November 23, 2016 http://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html
- Shuichi Wada, “Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution and Security Policy: Realism Versus Idealism in Japan since the Second World War.” Japan Forum (2010): 405-431.
- Titli Basu, “Decoding Japan’s Security Discourse: Diverse Perspectives.” Indian Council of World Affairs (2016): 30-49.
- United Nation Security Council (SC), Resolution 1373, “Counter Terrorism Committee,” September 28, 2001, http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1373%20%282001%29
 Japanese Cons. art. IX. “The Constitution of Japan” Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, accessed October 29, 2016, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html.
 Ibid., Chapter II, Article 9.
 Wada, Shuichi. “Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution and Security Policy: Realism Versus Idealism in Japan since the Second World War.” Japan Forum (2010): 409.
 Japan-US Security Treaty, Washington, DC, January 19, 1960. http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/n-america/us/q&a/ref/1.html.
 Explanation of counter-terrorism. Counter-terrorism is different than anti-terrorism. Japan’s legislation on acting on terrorism will be a counter-terrorism approach. The JCTA’s operations to support the US troops in Afghanistan will count as counter-terrorism.
 United Nations Security Council (SC), Resolution 1373, Counter Terrorism Committee. September 28, 2001. Accessed November 23, 2016 http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/1373%20%282001%29
 Lee, Jooyoung. “Narrating War: Newspaper Editorials on Japan’s Defense and Security Policy between Militarism and Peace.” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis (2016): 368.
 “Japan’s Counter-terrorism Assistance.” Foreign Ministry of Japan, May 2003. Accessed November 23, 2016 http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/terrorism/assist0306.html
 Wada, Shuichi. “Article Nine of the Japanese Constitution and Security Policy: Realism Versus Idealism in Japan since the Second World War.” Japan Forum (2010): 405.
 Saltzman, Ilai Z. “Growing Pains: Neoclassical Realism and Japan’s Security Emancipation.” Contemporary Security Policy (2015): 508.
 This is a visual map of the disputed islands in the South China Sea. The SCS islands dispute involve multiple countries besides People’s Republic of China and the Philippines. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled against China’s claims in the Spratly Islands. The final verdict can be found here: https://pca-cpa.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/175/2016/07/PH-CN-20160712-Award.pdf. Since the research paper will be focusing more on Japanese affairs, SCS is in the greater regional context. Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, Accessed November 23, 2016 https://amti.csis.org/maritime-claims-map/.
 “Press Conference by the Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.” Japanese Ministry of Defense, January 12, 2016. Accessed November 23, 2016. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/pressconf/2016/01/160112.html
 Kaiken genjitsu no kadai no, Kokumin Tohyo-ho seiritsu’ (Constitutional revision becomes a real agenda item: passage of National Referendum Law) (2007) Yomiuru Shimbun.
 Lee, Jooyoung. “Narrating War: Newspaper Editorials on Japan’s Defense and Security Policy between Militarism and Peace.” The Korean Journal of Defense Analysis (2016): 368.
 Note: In the 2014, new Article 9 version, the pacifist ideology and practice is deleted. “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. Anti-Abe, anti-war supporters have protested against the reinterpretation of the Article 9. By deleting this section, Japan will be capable of militarize and use land, sea, air military forces both at home and abroad. Find more comparisons: http://www.voyce-jpn.com/ldp-draft-constitution. Voices of Overseas Youth for Civic Engagement (VOYCE) is a non-profit watchdog organization for Japanese legislations concern with national security.