A new set of defence guidelines for Japan

japan's maritime self defence forceThe Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force leaves Tokyo harbour for a round-the-world training cruise last month.

Under Japan’s pacifist constitution, the Self Defence Force is restricted to weaponry and tactics that are deemed defensive in nature. That means no bombers, no cruise or ballistic missiles, no armed drones  – and no shooting until shot at.

Article 9 of the constitution says that Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes . . . The right of aggression of the state will not be recognized. 

Japan already has one of the most advanced missile defenses in the world. “The exclusively defense-oriented policy means that Japan will not employ defensive force unless and until an armed attack is mounted on Japan by another country, and even in such a case, only the minimum force necessary to defend itself may be used. Furthermore, only the minimum defense forces necessary for self-defense should be retained and used. This exclusively defense-oriented policy is a passive defense strategy that is consistent with the spirit of the Constitution,” states the ministry’s 2012 Defense White Paper.

Kirk Spitzer writes in Time Magazine that this approach could change: the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is compiling a new set of defense guidelines that would allow Japan’s armed forces, for the first time, to develop offensive capability, and to strike first if an attack appears imminent.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pressed unsuccessfully for similar measures during his first term in 2006-2007 and supports moves to strengthen Japan’s armed forces and ease constitutional restrictions on the military.

The chief of the LDP’s national defense division, Yasuhide Nakayama, told Yuka Hayashi of the Wall Street Journal last week that the latest missile crisis and continuing incursions into Japanese-administered waters by Chinese patrol ships have demonstrated the need to alter the current guidelines.

How will the Japanese public react?

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