Collective Self-Defense and US-Japan Security Cooperation


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When: Oct 29 2013 - 12:00pm until Oct 29 2013 - 1:30pm
Where: 1819 L St, NW, Washington, DC. Sixth Floor Conference Room

Collective Self-Defense and US-Japan Security Cooperation

An Asia-Pacific Security Seminar featuring:

Mr. Ian Rinehart
2013 Japan Studies Visiting Fellow, East-West Center in Washington
Analyst, Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service

Ms. Yuki Tatsumi (Discussant)
Senior Associate, East Asia Program, Stimson Center

2013 Japan Studies Visiting Fellow, Ian Rinehart, presented the results research conducted during his three month residency at the East-West Center in Washington.

Japan’s post-war constitution, known as the “Peace Constitution,” rejects the use of force to resolve international disputes and limits the nation’s military to defensive actions. Over the years, however, the definition of what constitutes as “self-defense” has evolved as a matter of policy. While Japan’s government maintains that it reserves the right to collective self-defense, which is the use of force in response to an armed attack on another nation, a 1960 Cabinet Office decision bars the country’s defense forces from participating in any military action that is not in response to an attack on Japan.

Since returning to power in late 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party have promoted more assertive defense policies for Japan, including exercising the right of collective self-defense. The United States has long encouraged Japan to take a greater role in the shared security commitments of the alliance. The recent joint statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee welcomed Japanese efforts in this regard and indicated a desire to collaborate closely.

What would be the implications of Japan's decision to exercise the right of collective self-defense? This policy change is expected to have a significant effect on bilateral military operations, regional security, and Japan's global security activities. In his presentation, Mr. Ian Rinehart discussed the potential benefits and costs of collective self-defense in Japan as well as constraints that may hinder its implementation in the near-term.

Tracing the impact of such a policy shift from the unit level to the US-Japan alliance, to regional and global security, Mr. Rinehart explained that Washington, which has reacted favorably to the notion of Japan expanding its defense operations, should manage its expectations. A loosening of restrictions on Japan's self defense options would certainly allow it to take a more active role in in everything from peace keeping operations to inter-region alliance support, but implementation will be time consuming and complicated, even if a decision comes soon. His interviews with officials revealed that over 30-40 laws and even more past cabinet decisions over the minutia of Japan's use of force will have to be revisited and necessary revisions to doctrine, training, and the defense budget will take time, if not further debate.

Discussant, Ms. Yuki Tatsumi, in her comments described how collective self-defense is currently a very sensitive issue in the Japanese public domain. She agrees that the impact will not be immediate, particularly as the institutional culture of Japan's defense structure is premised on limited, restricted powers. Even with the Abe administrations' comparatively strong political will and support, the change of each component will have to be brought before the Diet and subject to considerable debate by the opposition. In this way she agrees that a cabinet decision to relax restrictions would be just the beginning.

Ian E. Rinehart is an Analyst in Asian Affairs at the Congressional Research Service. He was recently a 2013 Japan Studies Visiting Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington and has worked at the research consultancy Washington Core, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and the Social Science Research Council. He received an M.A. in Security Policy Studies from the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs and a B.A. in International Relations from Pomona College.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch
Phone: 202-327-9762