National Security


Chapter II. Renunciation of War, which contains only one article (Article 9), states that “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained” and that the “right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.” Article 9 has been the legal basis for all security policies in Japan during the postwar era. It also became a source of controversy. The biggest issue has been the maintenance of Japan’s Self-Defense Force and the constitutionality of individual/collective self-defense. The Self-Defense Force has gradually gained the support of the Japanese people because of its participation in disaster relief activities, but public opinion related to the constitutionality of dispatching the Self-Defense Forces overseas and the scope of their activities remains divided. 

The Japanese government has taken the position that Article 9 does not deny Japan’s “inherent right to self-defense as a sovereign nation.” It is constitutional for Japan to have the minimum capability required for its self-defense, and Japan’s basic national defense policy has been designed exclusively for defense (senshubōei). In the event of an attack against the country, Japan would only use force for the purpose of self-defense. After anti-base protesters who were against the proposed expansion of a runway in the Tachikawa Air Base were arrested for trespassing during a demonstration in 1957, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the stationing of U.S. troops in Japan was unconstitutional. After a “jumping appeal” by the prosecution, the Supreme Court overturned the Tokyo District Court’s judgement and concluded that the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States of America and Japan (Anpo) was not unconstitutional. The debate over the pros and cons of the U.S.-Japan alliance reached its peak during the 1960 Anpo protests, but it subsided throughout the period of high economic growth. With the restriction imposed by Article 9 and the Anpo treaty, the idea of “light military spending with a heavy emphasis on the economy” (keibusō jūshō shugi) became entrenched. Although Japan had become an economic superpower, the international community criticized Japan’s “one-country pacifism” after it only provided economic support during the Gulf War (1990-1991). Because of this experience, after the 1990s a debate emerged over dispatching the Self-Defense Forces overseas as a way of contributing to international society.  After the Act on Cooperation with United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations was enacted in 1992, the Self-Defense Forces were dispatched to Cambodia. This happened during a time when Japan’s security concerns expanded to include not only national security but also “human security” (ningen no anzenhoshō). Japan was also looking for a way to focus on humanitarian aid for international cooperation. There were plans to strengthen Japan’s national security system—the cornerstone of the U.S.-Japan alliance—by related bills that would expand Japan’s activities (primarily logistic supports) in non-combat zones. During the 2000s, after the start of the North Korean missile problem and the September 11 attacks, the threat of international terrorism has led to the development of an emergency legistlation system. In 2007, the Japanese Defense Agency (Bōeichō) was upgraded to a full ministry, the Ministry of Defense (Bōeishō). In 2014, Abe Shinzō's cabinet replaced the Three Principles on Arms Exports with the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology, which allowed Japan to export weapons under certain conditions and participate in international cooperative developments. The Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) was established in 2015 to undertake this new strategy. At around that time, the Abe administration passed a cabinet decision that changed the interpretation of the Constitution by recognizing the right to use collective self-defense. During the next year, in 2015, the Self-Defense Law was passed and 10 related laws were revised. These laws were collectively enacted as the International Peace Support Law. Because this peace and security legislation was ultimately rammed through the Diet, the government received a major backlash from not only the opposition party, but also from many citizens. Many of them took part in large-scale protests in front of the National Diet Building. 

There is still a lot that we do not know about the discussion regarding the “Renunciation of War” between the Japanese government and SCAP. However, according to previous studies, the “Renunciation of War” allowed Japan to retain the emperor system. The democratization of Japan and the disarmament of the Japanese military forces were  included in the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which Japan accepted. The key position of the Japanese government was to accept demilitarization in exchange for preserving the kokutai (emperor system). SCAP believed that complete disarmament would offset any criticism for maintaining the emperor system by the Allied nations that were members of the Far East Commission or American public opinion. Later, one justification for maintaining arms for self-defense and exercising the right to self-defense was an amendment by Ashida Hitoshi, the chairmen of the Committee on the Bill for Revision of the Imperial Constitution, which was established by the House of Representatives). Ashida recommended adding the phrase “In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph” in the second paragraph of Article 9 (this amendment is typically called the “Ashida Amendment”).  One interpretation that emerged from this amendment was that with the exception of war and the use of force (which were both renounced in the first paragraph of Article 9), the retention of arms for self-defense and exercising the right of self-defense was constitutional. Later, SCAP told the House of Peers' Special Subcommittee on a Revised Draft of Constitution (Kenpō kaiseian tokubetsu iin shōiinkai), about the Far Easter Commission’s idea. In exchange for accepting the “Ashida Amendment,” a civilian control provision (Article 66, Paragraph 2) would be added. Furthermore, Article 9, the “Renunciation of War” not only disarmed Japan, but it also inherited the spirit of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, an agreement that made war illegal (Japan signed the pact in 1928).

When the Constitution was enforced in 1947, the government proactively endeavored to disseminate the Constitution and ensure that it was widely accepted by the people. However, after the Korean War broke out in 1950, the U.S. demanded that Japan remilitarize. The National Police Reserve, the predecessor to the Self-Defense Forces, was organized, and the rearmament of Japan started to progress gradually.  The American occupation policy had shifted from demilitarization and democratization to economic recovery as a member of the Western block. The demand for Japan’s remilitarization reveals that Japan’s international circumstances had changed dramatically since the enactment of the Constitution. It became inevitable that the Cold War in Asia would expand, and feelings of war-weariness and the trend toward world peace were dying out. Since the establishment of the Self-Defense Force, the scope of its activities has expanded, but every time their activities were expanded, the constitutionality of those activities was questioned. Although the demand to revise the Constitution to allow for the existence of the Self-Defense Force and an explicit provision of the constitutionality of its activities has grown stronger, opposition to revising Article 9—the symbol of Japan’s postwar pacifism—has remained firmly rooted. After the emergence of the conservative and reformist two-party system consisting of the the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Japan Socialist Party (JSP) in 1955, the LDP’s efforts to revise Article 9 and hold the two-thirds majority in the Diet required to revise the Constitution have been been thwarted by the JSP, whose goal is to protect the current constitution (goken). Therefore, the debate over constitutional revision has been shelved for a long time. At the beginning of the 1990s, around the time that the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union ended, the 1955 System—which created a domestic cold war—started to crumble. There was a new political party boom, the LDP was falling from power, and a reorganization of the political world occured. In addition, various arguments for constitutional revision, including some from the standpoint of the Self-Defense Force’s international contribution, were brought forward. Not long after, the LDP came to power once again, achieving a landslide victory in the 2009 House of Representatives general election. The administration of the Democratic Party of Japan’s left-of-center faction was replaced by the LDP. Once again, the LDP published a revised draft of the constitution, which explicitly mentioned the Self-Defense Force, in 2012. At the end of that year, the LDP regained control. Spanning a total of 3,188 days, the Abe Shinzō Cabinet was the longest in Japanese history. Even though Abe grappled with Japan’s legal system of peace and security, constitutional reform—which the LDP advocated—never materialized.