Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Yoshiko Sakurai

【#913】Japan Should Learn Lessons from Ukraine Tragedy

Yoshiko Sakurai / 2022.04.27 (Wed)

April 25, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has reacted to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine responsively and boldly. As a nuclear power has threatened to use nuclear weapons in a manner to virtually destroy the Nuclear Nonproliferation regime, Germany and Europe as a whole have turned around. But Japan is one lap behind them despite the fact that it is surrounded by Russia, China and North Korea and facing the most serious threats in the world.

Unlikely defense with “exclusively defensive” policy

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Research Commission on Security has compiled a national security policy proposal to the government. It includes a positive recommendation that defense spending be raised to 2% of gross domestic product within a five-year target period. But recommended defense approaches are old-fashioned, including the maintenance of an “exclusively defensive” policy. The proposal says that if a hostile country has intension to attack Japan and moves into concrete action, Japan will respond with recognition that it is under armed attack. But the counterattack should be limited to the minimum necessary. As the scope of the minimum necessary depends on the international environment and the progress of science and technology, the scope of the minimum necessary counterattack may expand in a severer security environment, the proposal says. But Japanese people should contemplate the result of the exclusively defensive policy.

In a meeting with domestic and foreign media reporters in a subway station 70 meters below ground on April 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged foreign countries to provide weapons to Ukraine, noting that if Ukraine had “sufficient” weapons, it could regain its territories occupied by Russia temporarily. The minimum necessary is not sufficient. It is important for any country to use sufficient weapons for all-out efforts to defend its territories and people. The Ukrainian tragedy we see every day may be what the exclusively defensive approach brings about.

Japan’s exclusively defensive policy has derived from the Japanese constitution’s Article 9-2 that says “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” The Self-Defense Forces into which the National Police Reserve developed are not military forces but police power under the constitution and legal system. Officially, the SDF are constitutional as they are not military forces and have only minimum necessary equipment. The exclusively defensive approach has been explained as meeting the spirit of the constitution. This is an extremely preposterous and patching explanation. Japan must not become a second Ukraine. The first step to prevent Japan from becoming a second Ukraine will be to abolish the exclusively defensive policy.

Three non-nuclear principles fraught with danger

The LDP proposal recommends that Japan maintain the so-called three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, producing or introducing nuclear weapons in Japan. At a time when Russia that threatens to use nuclear weapons has launched a war of aggression and China defending Russia is likely to intimidate Japan, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s perception of the three non-nuclear principles as a national policy is unacceptable. It is fraught with the danger of a third nuclear attack on Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The time has come for Japan to break away from utopian pacifism. Japan should adopt a realistic, rational security policy to use sufficient military power for deterring adversaries. As it is noted that the time has come for nuclear weapons can be used, Japan should decide whether or not and how to possess nuclear weapons on the premise that the function of extended U.S. nuclear deterrence has to be proven through military exercises or any other means. Constitutional amendments to delete Article 9-2 and define the SDF as national military forces is necessary.

Yoshiko Sakurai is President, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals.