National Security

Why the Right to Collective Self-defense Now? – Considering the Issue from the Front Line of Security

('14 4/22 Tokyo)


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140422 pic02The Abe administration has changed their constitutional interpretation with regard to Article 9 and decided that exercising the Right to Collective Self-defense is possible under the present constitution as valid on July 1st, 2014. However,  public opinion is protesting the very pros and cons of invoking the Right to Collective Self-defense and has disagreed with the use of cabinet approval as leverage for the constitutional reinterpretation. According to news reports, the number of dissenting voices is still growing. New Diplomacy Initiative (ND) examined the necessity of exercising the Right to Collective Self-defense from a more practical perspective with the executive board members including Kyoji Yanagisawa, an experienced who has engaged in security practices at the forefront of the government. Following the keynote lecture by Kyoji Yanagisawa, ND executive board member, two other ND executive board members,: Jiro Yamaguchi , Professor of Hosei University and Shuntaro Torigoe, a Journalist, held a panel discussion. The main points of remark are as follows:



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【Yamaguchi, Board Member】

“Doing whatever one wants as long as they capture the majority of? the diet” is known asthe so-called “Tyranny of Majority”. The constitution and our own constitutionalism are the ones that should control it. In order for the country to be recognized as legitimate, the power should not be acted upon selfishly; the constitution should be followed and obeyed. .

The cabinet who is the bearer of administrative power obtaining the authority of constitutional change is a challenge against civilization. Democracy does not simply imply or require participation in elections. When the direction of one’s government is deviating from public opinion, it is important for citizens to raise their voices and take actions.



【Torigoe, Board Member】

Japan, which has been taking part in the US-led wars by allowing them use of our bases in Japan and by providing financial assistance, is now compounding the level of cooperation by the acceptance of the exercise of Right to Collective Self-defense. I visited an ICBM base in Siberia at the end of the Cold War. The stored missiles were aimed at Okinawa as the second target after the U.S. Possessing the most advanced US base in East Asia entails that Japan will be the first and foremost target of any attack against the US. Unlike the conventional LDP regime, it is really concerning that the Abe administration directly has been working on and exerting their influence on the “education” and “media“ that have their place to generate the “Sentiments of the Public”.

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【Yanagisawa, Board Member: Key Note Speech】

  1. Why does the Abe administration want approval to  excercise the right of collective self-defense now?

Since last year, I have been asked about the fundamental motivation behind Prime Minister Abe’s moves to allow the government to excercise the right of collective self-defense. In a book published in 2004, Prime Minister Abe states that the politicians of his generation have a responsibility to make the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty mutually binding, and that the alliance could involve the spilling of Japanese blood when necessary. Without fulfilling these requirements, he says, Japan cannot be a fully qualified partner of the U.S. I suppose that this means that the administration is implementing what the prime minister wants to do. The actions of the Abe Administration are, therefore, mostly driven by ideas only and, as a result, logically inconsistent.

On the issue of Senkaku Islands, the U.S. military leaders want to keep themselves out of an armed conflict over a couple of uninhabited rocks.  Japanese people have long been worried about getting involved into wars waged by the U.S.  Nowadays, however, Americans fear  being dragged into a war that Japan initiates. When we discuss the issue of the right to collective self-defense, we must take into account the reality of the present situation.


  1. Four cases and five restrictions regarding the collective self defense right

There are four typical cases where the use of collective self-defense is said to be required, but none of them are realistic. The first is the case where U.S. vessels are under attack. It is said that the right of collective self-defense needs to be exercised to defend such vessels. However, an attack on a U.S. Vessel is unlikely to happen. Only those who are determined to open a new warfront with the U.S. would dare to do so. The second case, to shoot down missiles aimed at the U.S. territory, is technically unfeasible. An ICBM launched by North Korea and aimed at the U.S. mainland will fly over the arctic. It will fly too far and will be too fast to be shot down. Other cases are on-board inspections of ships and blockades by laying mines that are said to be necessary in certain situations. These are, however, considered to be very ineffective as security measures.

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Some argue that the right to collective self-defense needs to be exercised in the performance of international obligations. However, this means a departure from the principle not to intervene into another countries’ armed conflicts—a principle that Japan has held for a long time. We must think very carefully over such an issue. On the other hand, others point out that the there are strict conditions under which the right of collective self-defense could be used: in a time of a great threat to the security of Japan, by explicit request for assistance by a concerned country, and with the agreement of a third country when the Japanese forces pass through its territory. It is said that these conditions are restrictive enough to prevent the arbitrary use of collective self-defense by the government. However, these restrictions are nothing unique and could be ineffectual in a tense situation.


Although the administration has approved the use of collective self-defense in order to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, it could have an adverse effect—the bilateral relations would be damaged if Japan refuses to exercise that right when requested by the U.S.



  1. What we have to consider now

 (1) The attitude of the Abe administration

Advocating “the recovery of a strong Japan,” the Abe administration has established the National Security Council, enacted the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, lifted the ban on arms exports, and approved the right to exercise collective self-defense. I sense historical revisionism behind these moves. It seems to me that the administration intends to change its understanding of the history of Japan in the 20th century. The United States, however, remains concerned that such an ideology may unnecessarily raise tensions between Japan and neighboring countries. The Abe administration also advocates a “proactive contribution to peace.” Put simply, they, by this phrase, mean that Japan must take part in forming the international order. Japan must stop just being benefited from the existing international system, as we have been since the end WWII. These two views combined have resulted in the administration’s eagerness to take part in power politics, or the maintenance of the international order backed by force. However, diplomacy based on power politics is not suitable for a country like Japan.

(2) What we have to consider

The debate over the approval of the right to use collective self-defense is, according to the latest analysis, about the issue of national image. We must discuss this issue. I am aware that some people are feeling resentment toward the rise of China on the back by the rapid economic growth. It is important for us, however, to remember the various unique strengths of Japan and to make much use of them. The policy not to intervene in disputes fought by other countries may create an opportunity for us to gain confidence and respect in the international society.

Lastly, I would like to point out that we must be very cautious about rising nationalism in Japan. According to the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz, elevation of nationalistic sentiments among the people, strong military forces and a government capable of making logical judgments are three requirements for a country to wage a war.  In other words, it is necessary to fuel nationalism to start a war and to assuage it to avoid it.

Unfortunately, it seems that both the South Korean and Chinese governments are fueling nationalism among their peoples in order to enhance their respective legitimacy. Japan should not be overly affected by the tactics of neighboring countries to influence their own domestic politics, and should not react excessively to events in the international environment. We need to have a strong will to proceed with the reconstruction of our country based on our own reason.