The military construction of Japan at the end of 2013 and the beginning of the coming 2014 will be included in the post-war history Japan as an important stage on the long road of “normalization” of the country.
The term itself originated among the Japanese political elite in the early 90s and, in its most general form, implied a gradual abandonment of all the restrictions in domestic and foreign policy that were both imposed on Japan by the victors in World War II and voluntarily taken upon themselves government of the country.
The first is the Constitution of 1947, and, mainly (but not only), its 9 article, which declared “Japan’s refusal to use war as a means of solving intergovernmental problems and the possession of armed forces”. To the second - the adoption of the principles of “no three” (not to develop, not to possess, not to bring into its territory) directly concerns the nuclear weapons, as well as the export of weapons systems produced by Japanese companies. It is necessary to emphasize once again that the last two principles are not legally established and are obligations voluntarily undertaken by the Japanese government at the end of the 60s.
An important limiter to the nature of military construction, as well as the use of the current "Japan Self-Defense Forces" (SSOR, de facto full-fledged armed forces) is such a government interpretation of Art. 9 Constitution, which prohibits their use even in the format of the so-called "collective self-defense", as provided for by the UN Charter. The consequence of this self-restraint could be a hypothetical situation where, for example, an American food convoy heading to Japan and attacked on the high seas by some “third party” will not be protected by the Japanese Navy. Just because today they have no right to do this.
However, the paradox of such situations is purely external, because, according to the US-Japan Security Treaty, in its final form adopted in 1960, Japan actually transferred the problem of ensuring national security into the hands of the United States. That is fully consistent with the so-called. “Yoshida doctrine” (after the name of the country's first post-war prime minister), according to which all the forces of the country focused on the restoration and development of the economy.
By the time the Cold War ended, Japan had become the second economy of the world, which meant achieving the goals of the Yoshida Doctrine. In this regard, the Japanese establishment increasingly began to talk about its exhaustion and the need to “equalize obligations” in the US-Japan bilateral alliance, which put on the agenda the revision of the entire legal framework for the security and defense of the country.
Until recently, the process of “normalization” of Japan developed carefully and gradually, taking into account the memory in East Asian countries of the consequences of the Japanese Imperial Army staying on their territories during the Second World War. An important motive of such “leisurelyness” was also the fact that modern Japan (as well as its ally in World War II, Germany), relying on economic power and without a single shot, largely solved those foreign policy tasks that were in vain and with the disastrous consequences for themselves tried to resolve during the Second World War.
Accelerating the process of “normalization”
The current acceleration of the Japanese "normalization" contributes to the political situation in the region. China’s growth and its transformation into a second world power are increasingly perceived not only by Japan, but also by a number of its other neighbors as the main source of challenges to national interests.
The “Chinese factor” is becoming one of the main motives (perhaps simply the main ones) of the process of “normalizing” Japan. He, in the eyes of all the countries of Southeast Asia, contributes to the transformation of the image of Japan from the recent enemy into an important support in the confrontation with China. Evidence of this transformation was, in particular, the outcome of the “Japan - ASEAN countries” summit, held at the end of December 2013 in connection with the 40 anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations.
This is also indicated by the participation of SSOA in measures to eliminate the consequences of the hurricane “Haiyan”, which is disastrous for the Philippines. Two or three decades ago it was difficult to imagine the possibility of staying on the Philippine soil in one capacity or another of the Japanese military.
But China is the main trading partner of Japan, and in Tokyo for a long time they avoided designating it as the main source of threats. This role was assigned to the regional enfant terrible (“terrible child”), that is, the DPRK. The complex of internal and external circumstances leaves the latter no choice but to continue in good faith to fulfill this extremely ungrateful role. To the satisfaction of both Japan and its “big brother” - the United States, solving their own problems in a complex game with China. The main regional opponent of Washington and Tokyo is the People's Republic of China, not the DPRK.
North Korea is also mentioned in three new documents in the field of foreign policy, defense and security, adopted by the Japanese government 17 December 2013. Their content also allows us to speak about the beginning of a new important stage in the process of “normalizing” the country. Of these documents, the “National Security Strategy” adopted for the first time in the post-war history of Japan in 2013 pays special attention.
The “Strategy” declares that Japan today is “one of the main global players in the world community”. The country "intends to contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the region and in the world as a whole." The very category of “security” is understood in a broad sense, in fact including all internal and external aspects of the functioning of the state.
One of the fundamental theses of the “Strategy” is to state that the Japanese are “the sea nation, and the prosperity of Japan is based on the freedom of navigation and trade”. The principle of Open and Stable Sea is declared the “foundation of peace and prosperity” of both Japan and other countries.
These theses become the starting point for assessing threats to Japanese interests, as well as defense policy strategies, as well as military construction. The source of the main threats is indicated quite definitely - this is the “opacity of the rapidly growing defense budget” of China, which is spreading its influence in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea (VKM). As the latest evidence of Chinese intentions “to unilaterally violate the status quo,” the so-called “Defense Air Defense Identification Zone”, just introduced by the Defense Ministry of the People's Republic of China, is mentioned over a significant part of the CMD.
The political component of the strategy of parrying the “Chinese threat” is to strengthen the existing bilateral alliances (primarily with the United States) and to develop relations with promising partners in this regard, among whom India is mentioned. As for its own defense potential, the nature of its development over the next 10 and 5 years is recorded in two other documents, which are the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) and the Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP).
First of all, it should be noted that, compared with the last edition of the NDPG, which appeared at the end of 2010, the previous thesis on “limited enhancement of defense capabilities” is missing in NDPG-2013. Instead, a thesis appeared on ensuring the operation of the “SSF as a whole ..., which should become the basis of effective defense” of the country. In this regard, it is useful to recall that the term “jointness” of the actions of the types of armed forces was key in the discussions of American military experts of the end of 90's on the theme “Revolution in military affairs”.
In general, it can be stated that the improvement of the organizational and technological quality of the armed forces is becoming the central point of the military construction of Japan. This is especially noticeable against the background of a rather symbolic (estimated) increase in military spending, which in relative terms remains one of the lowest in the world.
The prospect of the emergence of subunits capable of conducting amphibious operations according to the scheme “from sea to land” in the coming years is already noteworthy. That corresponds not only to the solution of the current problem of the defense of the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands (which the PRC claims to possess), but also to one of the central provisions of the “National Security Strategy” mentioned above.
An analysis of all three documents allows Chinese experts to make the most general conclusion about turning the vector of focus of Japanese defense policy from the “irrelevant” North to the West and South, that is, in the direction of the PRC. In the opinion of the same experts, in the course of such a turn, URF will acquire an “offensive potential”.
As for self-restraints, for the time being there are no signs of Japan’s possible rejection of the “no-three” principle in the field of nuclear weapons; at least in the near future. However, the ban on the export of Japanese weapons in the coming months will undergo a serious "relief." It is associated with the need to participate in international programs to develop the most modern military technologies, as well as to encourage Japanese companies to pay more attention to the defense business.
Now the procedure for circumventing the ban on the export of Japanese weapons is in the nature of "exceptions to the rule." In a similar format, 1998 cooperates with American and Japanese companies in the development of various missile defense systems.
The adoption in December 2013 of the law on criminal liability for disclosing confidential information relating to a number of areas of state activity also fits into the overall process of “normalizing” Japan. As well as the right to participate in the actions of “collective self-defense”, which will be fixed by S. Abe’s office, apparently, in the spring of 2014.
For the process of the Japanese “normalization”, extremely important symbols will be acquired by acts of raising the status of the emperor from the current “Symbol of Unity of the Nation” to “Head of State”, introducing rules of respect for the national flag and anthem, and renaming the SSYR into Armed Forces. All these activities were written in the program documents of the current ruling Liberal Democratic Party, adopted in 2012 on the eve of the extraordinary parliamentary elections, its leadership led by the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Impact on the situation in the APR
And yet, despite the importance of the documents adopted by 17 in December, 2013, as well as other expected “accompanying acts” in the field of defense and security, for the current cabinet of ministers they are an intermediate step towards the “normalization” of the country. This is evidenced by the statement of S. Abe made by 23 on December that the purpose of his political career was always to revise the Constitution of 1947.
Evidence of the seriousness of the intentions of the Japanese Prime Minister is his visit to the Yasukuni temple, which took place on December 26 and caused a wide resonance in the world. According to Shinto ideas, the souls of 2,5 million Japanese soldiers who died in various wars rest in this temple. Among them are the souls of those high-ranking officials of Japan during the Second World War, who were executed in December 1948 by the Tokyo Tribunal sentence.
The first (and now the last) visit to Yasukuni Shrine was made in 2006 by then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. As then, the current visit of this temple by the highest official of Japan caused the expected sharply negative reaction in the PRC and South Korea. Already almost routine, such visits by members of the Japanese government have always been viewed in Beijing and Seoul as evidence of a “revision” of recent history, as well as a “revival of militarism” in the country — the aggressor during World War II.
The immediate response of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China to S. Abe’s visit was about the same. Noteworthy in this connection are the publicly expressed fears of representatives of Japanese industrial companies that operate substantially abroad. They remember the extremely negative consequences for their business in China of the anti-Japanese actions of the recent past due to the deterioration of bilateral political relations.
“Disappointment” in connection with this visit, which can “increase tensions in Japan’s relations with its neighbors,” was expressed in a statement on behalf of Caroline Kennedy (daughter of the famous US President) on behalf of the new American ambassador to Tokyo. However, in the same statement, Japan is designated as an American “ally and friend”.
Finally, one cannot but touch upon the question of what the process of “normalization” of Japan means for the development of the situation in the APR. Today, it is determined mainly by the state of relations in the US-China-Japan strategic triangle. From each of his “corners,” the picture of what is happening is seen, naturally, in different ways. The following reflects a fairly common view from China.
This illustration accompanies the columnist's article in the Chinese online edition of the Global Times, commenting on the adoption in Japan of the three documents mentioned above. The artistic image of what is happening in the APR, cited in this article, however, requires important clarifications.
First, while it reflects, rather, the situation of the 30s of the last century, than (fortunately) the current state of affairs in the region. Secondly, the Japanese soldier does not yet possess the frightening weapon shown in the picture, and the Chinese panda is not at all unarmed. Thirdly, from the standpoint of the Japanese political commentator, both of these characters would probably change places. Fourth, the roguish world leader has not yet hidden behind the wall, but is positioned in relation to the panda in front of the Japanese soldier. Now this leader is in a state of reflection on what to do next.
Finally, the above image reflects the outcome of one of the possible scenarios for the development of events in the region. That leaves some hope for implementation and more optimistic scenarios.
In conclusion, one should state the objectivity of the very process of Japan gradually withdrawing from itself the restrictions that are causally connected with its aggressive course 80-year-old. The comprehensive growth of China, including the military sphere, is just as objective.
So far these processes are considered in both countries as directed against each other. Since the situation in the APR, the further, the more will be determined by the state of Sino-Japanese relations, we can only hope for a calm, unbiased and detached from recent history (as far as possible) assessment of these processes by the leadership of both China and Japan.