|Sailors train Nov. 17 in Annual Exercise 2017 in the Philippine Sea. (Photo by MC2 J. Graham)|
How did the JMSDF come about, what is its role now, and what will the future bring for Japan's "nonmilitary" military? What is the value of civilian control of the military? These are some of the questions explored in Sado Akihiro's "The Self-Defense Forces and Postwar Politics in Japan" (2006, 2017, Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture).
Strictly speaking, and in keeping with Japan's laws, the Self-Defense Forces in Japan have not been considered a military, according to Sado.
|Vice Adm. Hoshina Zenshiro|
Many Imperial Japanese naval leaders, unlike the army, were reluctant to start a war with the United States prior to 1941.
After the war, with the help of the United States, Japan established a constitution, a democratic government and a free and open society built on international relations, competitive cooperation and commerce.
Veterans of the smaller, tighter Imperial Japanese navy maintained close ties after the war. Vice Adm. Hoshina Zenshiro, who had been director of the Navy Ministry of his nation's Bureau of Naval Affairs, took the initiative with a core group of former naval officers.
Working with Hoshina, America's military helped build the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces:
"One remarkable characteristic of the former Imperial Navy group's rearmament plan was its emphasis on the importance of relations with the United States. This group was foresighted enough to make Nomura Kichisaburo, who had been well connected with the U.S. military, the center of its efforts. As a result, such U.S. Navy leaders as Vice Admiral Charles Turner Joy, Commander Naval Forces, Far East; Chief of Staff Ralph A. Ofstie; and Deputy Chief of Staff Arleigh A. Burke, who later assumed the highest post in the U.S. Navy, chief of naval operations, became powerful supporters of the efforts by Nomura, Hoshina, and their associates. As eloquently revealed in Nomura's remarks to U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who visited Japan for the peace treaty negotiations, that 'the most important foundation is the U.S.-Japan military alliance,' the Nomura group's emphasis on relations with the United States put the military alliance first. Moreover, when Hoshina briefed the Study Group on Rebuilding the New Japanese Navy plan to Arleigh Burke, one of the most outstanding Japan sympathizers in the U.S. Navy, he declared that the new Japanese navy would be 'an object of cooperation with the United States Navy.' Thus, Hoshina revealed that the group was planning to build a navy that, within the framework of the U.S.-Japan military alliance, could collaborate with the U.S. Navy. It is an important point to be kept in mind that these ideas were at the foundation of the establishment of today's Maritime Self-Defense Force."
|JMSDF CNO Adm. Yoshikawa (right) and then-Commander Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. J. Kelly |
salute Adm. Arleigh Burke at the U.S. Naval Academy May 16, 2007. (MCSN Chris Lussier)
Sado introduces us to dozens of influential prime ministers and other officials who helped shape the self-defense forces over the years: Miki, Ohira, Nakasone, Mori, Hosokawa, Koizumi and Abe.
Under President Reagan and again under President Clinton ties between the two nations deepened especially in U.S.-Japan defense cooperation and support of Peacekeeping Operations (PKO).
"One thing to be pointed out first is the great role the MSDF played in U.S.-Japan defense cooperation. It can be said that the MSDF, which had been created and developed on the premise of joint actions with the U.S. Navy, well lived up to the U.S. Navy's expectations by exerting its capabilities in full. The cooperation between the U.S. and Japanese naval forces was so close that some diplomacy experts claim the essence of U.S.-Japan security cooperation to 'navy to navy' relations. This degree of closeness, however, also meant that MSDF activities regarding bilateral defense cooperation stood out starkly from the other branches of the JSDF. Truth be told, even with the Defense Agency, the defense of sea lanes was predominantly perceived as defense of shipping lanes ... It appears that the MSDF had gone ahead with substantive cooperation with the U.S. Navy to a degree beyond the inner bureau's assumption. It can be said that the MSDF was indeed engaged in defense cooperation with the U.S. Navy one step ahead of other branches of the JSDF."We see how events shaped the JSDF, especially during and after the Cold War, Vietnam and the Gulf War. In modern Japanese history, the people of Japan have seen their self-defense services as being strictly defensive but able to respond to disaster relief and other humanitarian missions.
"Along with disaster relief activities, which became increasingly important for the JSDF after the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, international cooperation has now become one of the most important post-cold war activities of the JSDF," Sado writes.
"Instances of the JSDF being dispatched overseas are likely to continue to increase. Nevertheless, there remains a risk that the JSDF's presence overseas may fail to receive as much high esteem from the international community as expected due to the numerous constraints on its activities and its lack of self-defense capabilities. The obstacles mentioned above to dispatching the JSDF still have to be overcome. Meanwhile, today dispatch of the JSDF overseas is no longer contained to PKO activities; nowadays the JSDF is mobilized to assist overseas anti-terrorist activities. Thus, it should be said that a limit has already been reached for Japan to continue to dispatch the JSDF in the same fashion as in the past."The end of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War and what Japan saw as its greatest threat. But since then, new threats have arisen in the world. Because the bulk of this book was written prior to 2006, there is scant mention of the rise of nuclear threats from North Korea. Sado also lightly touches on the various controversies surrounding Okinawa ever since a rape incident occurred there in 1995, "although it is beyond the scope of this book on the JSDF." He does, however, devote considerable time on international terrorism and the ripple effects of 9/11 on Japan and the JSDF.
China's expansion and the nine-dash-line in the East China and South China Seas are examined in what Sado calls, "tenacious arguments with China."
In 2011 the JSDF proved its worth and gained a nation's respect for how it responded in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Fukushima. "The JSDF ended up playing an outstanding role at this time of crisis," Sado writes.
Researchers will be disappointed with the sparse index in this volume. On the positive side, this book presents a comprehensive history of the origins and development of the maritime force and has extensive appendices with a deeper dive into what's on the horizon for Japan's defense development and closer partnership with the Republic of Korea, Australia and other U.S. allies.
As for the future of the JSDF, Sado discusses "The Modality of Security and Defense Capability of Japan: Outlook for hte 21st Century." And in Appendix I, he prints this from "National Defense Program Guidelines for FY2014 and Beyond," of Dec. 17, 2013:
"Japan will promote various initiatives to improve the global security environment on a regular basis in cooperation with the international community. Japan will continue strengthen various initiatives concerning arms control, disarmament, nonproliferation and capacity building assistance in order to respond to global security challenges, including regional conflicts, expansion and spread of international terrorism, failed states, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and problems related to the sea, outer space and cyberspace, while regularly cooperating with its ally and relevant questions with which it shares security interests and with international organizations and other relevant bodies. In this respect, Japan will further strengthen its cooperation with the European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and with the United Kindgom, France and other European countries and will work with them in responding to these challenges. Japan will also promote cooperation and exchanges with regard to equipment and technology with these countries and organizations."
|JMSDF and U.S. Navy sailors meet at RIMPAC 2016. (MC1 Jeff Troutman)|
Appendix J is "The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation" of April 27, 2015 offering a "general framework and policy directions," strategies for strengthening bilateral cooperation, a commitment to "cooperation for regional and global peace and security" and a plan to contribute to space and cyberspace security.
After World War II, Japan reconstituted a national defense system – first called the National Police Reserve, then the National Safety Forces, before becoming the JSDF. As mentioned, Japan set up its democratic system of government (including its constitution) based on that of the United States – and under an important American concept: civilian control of the military.
"It seems beyond doubt that a system of civilian control that is suitable for the new age has to be explored," Sado opines. Nevertheless, a civilian government's control of the military is considered a war preventive, WWII being a case in point, in which the military controlled the governments in Japan and Germany. While there may be benefits in further integrating the three services, as Sado points out, there is a reason for a separation of military forces, just as there is in the branches of government – to protect a balance of power.
USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), foreground, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), left, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Murasame-class destroyer JS Samidare (DD 106), back, transit the Philippine Sea April 26, 2017. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean M. Castellano)