Japan’s closely monitored peacekeeping mission in South Sudan

July 28, 2017

The Japanese public supports the country’s ‘peace constitution’ and is keenly aware of any breach of its terms. At present they are scrutinising the role played by the 350-strong contingent of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, which was based in Juba after fighting in the area had halted and a UN peacekeeping force was in place – a precondition for the SDF’s participation. Its mission was to build infrastructure and be responsible for engineering and construction in the capital.

United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeepers from Japan assemble a drainage pipe at Tomping camp, where some 15,000 people who fled their homes following recent fighting are sheltered by the United Nations in Juba.

Its mission ended at the end of May this year after facing public criticism because the second contingent was allowed to guard UN bases, mount rescue missions and escort U.N. staff and personnel of non-government bodies (NGO). Though this was in line with a security law passed in 2015 that expanded the SDF’s overseas role, critics say it is weakening Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, who earlier rejected opposition calls to resign because she refused to describe the conflict as “fighting” has been questioned, as part of an ‘internal probe’, about the Ground Self-Defense Force troops’ activity logs.

The logs — which initially were said to have been discarded by the Ground Self-Defense Force but had actually been preserved by them – described tense moments last summer in South Sudan. Fuji News Network reported it has obtained “handwritten notes” of a Feb. 13 meeting, taken by a senior Defense Ministry official, that showed Ms Inada was informed by a senior Ground Staff Office member of the existence of the logs’ digital data. She denied an allegation that she endorsed a decision by the ministry and the Ground Staff Office to keep GSDF’s retention of the logs from the public.

The logs had been kept on the computer of the Self-Defense Forces Joint Staff Office but immediately after the announcement the GSDF erased the data it had in its possession, at the instruction of a top official of the GSDF staff office, according to government sources.

This was controversial information that could have affected a parliamentary debate on whether to give the GSDF members new, and possibly riskier, roles during the U.N. peacekeeping operation, in line with the country’s security legislation that took effect in March last year.

On Friday 28th July Ms Inada resigned.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at his residence in Tokyo today that Japan would continue providing development aid to South Sudan.

If even 10% of Britain’s population scrutinised the country’s defence operations in this way its foreign policy might take a very different course.




Japanese people are proud that their defence forces have not fired a shot to kill the citizens of other countries: Tatsumi

May 9, 2017

Earlier in May, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cited regional security concerns as one reason to revise the country’s war-constitution. He spoke at a rally on Constitution Memorial day, the national holiday marking the 70th anniversary of the US-drafted and imposed document that has shaped Japan’s domestic and international politics since 1947. He hopes to effect this change by 2020, when the Olympic Summer Games will be held in Tokyo.

In 2015, when changes were made to Japan’s Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) by laws passed permitting the force to fight overseas for the first time since the second world war, there were reports of 100,000 protesters in the streets outside Japan’s parliament (above). An estimated 25,000 people also gathered at the Shibuya crossing in central Tokyo. The most recent polls on the issue, conducted by Nikkei, showed 46% against change versus 45%.

Will Japanese forces ever conduct the types of operations that the United States undertakes in the Middle East?

Defenders of the post-war constitution cite the positive role Article 9 has played in ensuring 70 years of peace and increasing prosperity since the end of World War II. Yuki Tatsumi, a senior associate and director of the Japan program at the Stimson Centre in Washington DC says that ‘red line’ is whether to allow the JSDF to conduct the types of operations that the United States undertakes in the Middle East, which may require them to use force. “Japanese people have been proud that their defence forces have not had to fire a shot to kill the citizens of other countries up to this point, even with their participation in UN peacekeeping operations,” she said

“I think they would very much like to continue to keep it that way.”

The editor of Japan’s Asahi Shimbun emphasises that Article 9 in no way bans the government from using armed force to protect the lives and freedom of its people from foreign attacks, which is its most important responsibility, according to the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution.

He stresses due process: in the first place a formal debate on an amendment to the Constitution should have been held at the Commissions on the Constitution in both houses of the Diet and ends, after hearing Shinzo Abe’s announcement:

“We cannot support his proposal, which could fundamentally change Japan’s identity as a pacifist nation”.


Sources include:




Moves to revise the Japanese constitution and Article Nine

May 25, 2014

japan article 9 graphicJapan has not engaged in military action since the U.S. drafted a pacifist charter after its defeat in World War II, renouncing violence as a means of settling international disputes after the second world war. This month, Prime minister Shinzo Abe – in a nationally televised address – has called for a more collective approach to Japan’s national security and the end of a prohibition on overseas combat missions that would stretch the limits of its anti-war constitution.

He has selected a panel of experts to rule on this new interpretation of the constitution.

His views would have to be incorporated in new defence-related laws as well as guidelines covering the US-Japan military alliance, a process that could take years.

Although a majority of his party supports this move, the Buddhist-affiliated party Komeito, the smaller partner in the Liberal Democratic Party’s ruling bloc, is wary of the change.

japan academics

Save Constitutional Democracy Japan 2014 is a group, now numbering 670 academics, who have vowed to uphold the country’s postwar constitutional democracy

It was founded by about 50 academics from various fields, including sociology, economics, human science and physics. Earlier some members were active in a group called the Article 9 Association and other activities (http://www.9-jo.jp/en/index_en.html).

Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor at Hosei University, believes people distrust official promises that some restrictions on military deployments will remain – such as parliamentary oversight and a condition that Japan will use only the minimum necessary force: “These requirements can be interpreted however the government wants. It’s the same as actually amending the constitution. Abe says Japan is all about liberty, democracy and the rule of law, but I don’t think he understands his own words.”

The Japanese public has grown increasingly wary of the prime minister’s defence plans. A poll in May by NHK, the national public broadcaster, showed that 41% did not want the government to reinterpret the constitution with only 34% in favour.



For the first time, Japan is to sign a joint UN statement on nuclear weapons

October 12, 2013


Japan, the only nation that has experienced the devastation of atomic bombings, is to sign a joint statement by the United Nations – and Civilisation 3000 readers will join many in welcoming this.

But is it a ‘non-use treaty’ or does it also call for abolition?

Japan had abstained from voting on such statements since1995 believing that this would conflict with its reliance on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.

However, the Japanese government announced its intention to sign the joint statement expected from the U.N. General Assembly First Committee, on Oct.11th.  It has been supported by Switzerland, New Zealand and 14 other countries and is said to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons, which could create a humanitarian catastrophe.

Photo by Rebecca Johnson: Civil Society Demo at Japan's UN Mission in Geneva, 24.4.2013

Photo by Rebecca Johnson: Civil Society Demo at Japan’s UN Mission in Geneva, 24.4.2013

Japan’s position is said to have changed after the citizens and mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were devastated by atomic bombs near the end of World War II strongly criticised Japan’s refusal to sign.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the Foreign Ministry to work with relevant nations over the forthcoming joint statement. Kyodo News International reports Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida’s words that the joint statement to be issued at the United Nations will call on countries not to use nuclear weapons:

“After examining the purpose of the statement as a whole, we concluded we can support the content,” Kishida said at a press conference. “It’s a moral responsibility for Japan to make a strenuous effort to realize a nuclear-free world.”

Was one sentence in the statement a sticking point for Japan?

“The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination.”

 un statement npt 2013

At the NPT prepcom in Geneva, on 24th April 2013, the South African ambassador to the UN presented the statement on behalf of 74 states highlighting the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons.  Switzerland’s Pressenza published the statement in full.


 Has that sentence been retained?


A new set of defence guidelines for Japan

June 11, 2013

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?


Attempting to ease tensions between Japan and China

February 2, 2013


Natsuo Yamaguchi2On January 25th The Financial Times reported that Natsuo Yamaguchi, a special envoy from Tokyo, met Xi Jinping, China’s incoming president.  After the meeting, Mr Yamaguchi said that Japan believes tensions with China fanned by a dispute over a group of uninhabited islands can be successfully addressed.

Though he did not directly discuss the islands issue with Mr Xi, Mr Yamaguchi is head of the ‘relatively dovish’ New Komeito party, the junior partner in Japan’s ruling coalition. He added: “I firmly believe our differences with China can be resolved.”

He delivered a letter to Mr Xi from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and both agreed that it is important to continue dialogue with the aim of holding a Japan-China summit between the two leaders.

On the same day ABC News added further information:

Liu Zhenmin ambassador UN2“Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, China’s envoy to the U.N. in Geneva, told a session on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos that his country hopes the new Japanese government will face up to history and reality” and take the right measures to overcome the difficulty in relations with China and bring relations back on the track of normal development.”

“Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, said he had ‘great confidence’ the two governments could solve the problem themselves without outside help: ‘I think that they can settle down this dispute within two years.’ “