Toward the Formulation of a New "National Security Strategy" and Key Security Policy Documents
-Expectations, Anxieties, and Some Proposals-

Hideshi Tokuchi

1. Introduction

Nearly nine years have passed since, in December 2013, the Japanese government first formulated the "National Security Strategy (NSS)," and the process of revising the three so-called key security policy documents, including the National Defense Program Guidelines ("NDPG") and the Medium Term Defense Program ("MTDP"), is now in its final stage. Looking back over the past nine years, there was at least another opportunity to revise the NSS. It was in 2018 when the NDPG was revised and the MTDP was formulated accordingly. COVID-19 had yet to change the face of the world; the era of engagement with China was over; a new era of great power competition began with the US-China confrontation becoming increasingly intense. Due partly to the advent of the Trump administration, there were great concerns and anxieties about the direction of the United States and the Japan-US alliance relations.

At that time (2018), voices were calling for a review of the NSS. 1 The government, however, did not renew it, but revised the NDPG and formulated a new MTDP. The government recognized at the end of 2018 that "the security environment surrounding Japan was becoming more severe and more uncertain, as interstate competition became tangible on the political, economic, and military fronts and changes in power balance were becoming more accelerated and complex." The government concluded that "the current security environment and national security challenges are, as a whole, within the scope of the basic recognition presented in this Strategy, although it is necessary to discern their medium- to long-term directionality." The Cabinet Secretariat also stated, "Japan's principles, national interests, and national security goals outlined in this Strategy remain valid, and the necessity and importance of a strategic approach remain unchanged." 2

On that occasion, it is said that there was a view that when the international situation is very fluid, it is necessary to observe it objectively or that the government should refrain from revising the NSS that looks ten years into the future. The NDPG for FY2019 and beyond includes such a hyperbolic expression as "confront the reality of a security environment we have never faced before." 3 Yet, regarding the direction of the building of national defense architecture, the document does not go further than stating that the new concept of "Multidimensional Integrated Defense Force" is an "advanced sequel" of the "Dynamic Joint Defense Force" that the previous NDPG for FY2014 and beyond proposed. 4 To put it bluntly, the cabinet decision seems somewhat like a misrepresentation.

In formulating a new NSS this time, the government is more proactive in saying: "whatever option will not be ruled out" and "defense capabilities will be fundamentally reinforced speedily." 5 Leaving the wording aside, it is of particular importance to provide an overall picture of the concept of national security and to make the new NSS effective, not just empty words.

From this perspective, I would like to discuss some of my expectations for the ongoing revision work. (This paper was written based on information available as of this writing on November 15, 2022.)

2. Why is a New NSS Necessary?

I am well aware of the views that since Japan's basic policy of "proactive contribution to peace based on international cooperation" and the three pillar concepts—Japan's defense efforts, strengthened cooperation with allies, and efforts for global stability—are still fully viable, we should correct obvious shortcomings in national defense, rather than spending energy in revising the national security strategy document, given the urgency of the actual situation. These views question whether Japan could be safer only by revising the strategic document into a version stressing the threats of China and Russia. 6

Since the objective of revising the NSS and related documents is to secure Japan's national security, drafting document should not be the objective, nor should we become complacent with well written sentences. Therefore, the above warning is correct. Nonetheless, it is vital to create a new NSS for the following four reasons.

First, a strategy (1) defines the goals toward which we should proceed; (2) analyzes the current situation; (3) shows a roadmap from the current situation to the goals. The current NSS does not have to undergo any fundamental change as far as the national security goals it sets forth are concerned. 7 However, since the current situation has changed significantly from nine years ago, it is only natural that the path leading to these goals should also be changed.

Second, even if the three pillars noted above remain viable in the future, it is necessary to change their specifics following changes in the situation. If they remain unchanged, they will lose their meaning as policy guidelines, just as the "Basic Policy on National Defense," 8 which was so abstract that no momentum was generated to revise it.

Third, it is now becoming less meaningful to distinguish security cooperation with allied countries, as an independent pillar, from cooperation with other countries. It is often believed that there is a qualitative difference between security cooperation assuming the implementation of joint operations in the event of a Japanese contingency and one that does not. However, cross-decking and the exchange of cadres are already vigorously underway among the United States, European countries, Australia, etc. 9 The new Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, signed in October 2022, states, "We will consult each other on contingencies that may affect our sovereignty and regional security interests, and consider measures in response." 10 The "vital special strategic partnership" between Australia and Japan is being further strengthened. The document is not explicit on how mutual consultations and response measures will be conducted in what emergency. Yet, according to the joint declaration, cooperation between the JSDF and the Australian Defence Force includes cooperation related to high-end capabilities, 11 and the challenges mentioned concerning regional resilience include "aggression, coercion, disinformation, malicious cyber activity and other forms of interference, as well as to global challenges such as pandemics, natural disasters, and climate change." 12 Given this, the bilateral security cooperation described by the joint declaration may be considered to be broad enough to suggest the possibility of operational cooperation in an armed aggression situation.

Fourth, the above-quoted view that there is no need to revise the NSS points out that "the framework of security policy is fairly well structured; it is imperative to make it workable." 13 However, a new decision on security strategy would generate momentum to establish a workable framework quickly. The significance of the current NSS is that it is Japan's first-ever document of this kind. But we cannot remain content with that anymore. The NSS should be restructured into a document that indicates the direction of government-wide efforts on security.

3. Japan's National Security Policy System

Japan's national security policy system is a three-layered structure with the NSS at the top, which constitutes the basic principle of national security, focusing on foreign and defense policies. Under the NSS, the NDPG elaborates on the basic defense policy, the role of defense forces, the specific setup of each branch of the JSDF, and a target level of defense capabilities to possess. To achieve the target level of defense capabilities described by the NDPG, the MTDP specifies the implementation policy and major projects for defense buildup over five years, alongside the limit on total expenditures to incur during the same period. 14

However, it may be time to review this three-tiered structure. A total of six NDPGs came into being in the past. The first NDPG (the NDPG for FY1977 and beyond) remained in effect for 19 years as the guidelines for Japan's defense buildup, from the Cold War period to its end. The subsequent five NDPGs have gradually become shorter-lived: nine, six, three, and five years, respectively, reflecting the fact that changes in the domestic and international environment surrounding Japan's security have become increasingly intense in recent years.

An NDPG aims to build a certain target level of defense capabilities in a span of 10 to 15 years, during which period two or three MTDPs may be formulated. Yet, if NDGPs change one after another in less than ten years, the validity of setting the target level of defense capabilities to possess may be questioned. In other words, it stands to reason to think that defense capabilities set out in an NDPG represent possible defense capabilities ten years from now rather than the ultimate goal to achieve. 15 If the five-year plans are often cut off halfway, as has been the latest case, the soundness of the method may be questioned of exhibiting the whole picture of major projects for the five years and the total amount of their expenditures as one set.

If this is the case, it will be good to free ourselves from the original idea in the NDPG to tabulate numerical targets of defense buildup and to present, as a new NDPG, a fundamental policy document clarifying defense policy priorities. Then, we could consider adopting a way of presenting in an MTDP a general framework for defense buildup for the target period without indicating numerical targets in the new NDPG. 16

While expanding their scope, the chief purpose of NDPGs lies in presenting a target level of defense buildup. Today, however, it is already impossible to defend the country with the Cold War-era mindset that emphasized static deterrence through power balancing alone. Therefore, it is understandable that a "National Defense Strategy" is needed, 17 which defines "the basic policy on the operation of JSDF units according to the situation and circumstances (purposes of deterrence and response, means, plans, etc.); the responsibilities and roles of relevant ministries and agencies regarding national defense, and cooperation guidelines." The latter of these, "responsibilities and roles of relevant ministries and agencies and cooperation guideline," is an area that has not been explored in depth in the current NSS and is considered to be worthy of a detailed description in the NSS. Although there is some controversy as to whether or not "the basic policy on the operation of JSDF units" is suitable for open decisions of the cabinet, articulation of it is important to exhibit an overall picture of defense policy.

The NDPG for FY2005 and beyond clarified the concept of national security as a whole before discussing the significance and role of defense capabilities. This approach is based on the belief that it is necessary to first present an overall picture of national security policy and then clearly position defense capabilities within that picture. In this sense, the NDPG for FY2005 and beyond anticipated the upcoming NSS. 18 The subsequent NDPGs also incorporated some elements of the NSS. This was also the case with the NDPG for FY2014 and beyond, adopted simultaneously with the NSS. The current NDPG for FY2019 and beyond also states under the heading "Building comprehensive architecture for national defense," "In order to securely achieve national defense objectives, Japan will build national defense architecture that in all phases integrates the strengths at the nation's disposal: this structure enables not only Ministry of Defense (MOD) and Self-Defense Forces (SDF) efforts but also coherent, whole-of-government efforts; and enables cooperation with local governments and private entities." 19 While it is desirable that the NSS, which represents government-wide efforts, be revised and enriched, it may be necessary to ensure to not dilute the NDPG's character of government-wide efforts as a result of separating the NSS from the NDPG. In principle, the NDPG should be understood as one set of document consistent with the NSS. Given that the Ministry of Defense and the JSDF tend to focus more on the NDPG and the MTDP than on the NSS, the spirit and major points of the NSS should be clearly stated in the NDPG. If the NDPG is transformed and enlarged into a document worth the name of a "national defense strategy," it should be done so on this premise.

4. Government-wide Efforts and US "Integrated Deterrence"

The Japan-US alliance is one of the pillars of Japan's foreign and security policies. Although there is always opposition to it, including an emotional one, the maintenance of the alliance will unlikely change as government policy.

Intergovernmental processes for adjusting both sides' strategies are currently underway between Japan and the United States. The Joint Statement of the Security Consultative Committee ("2+2") on January 7, 2022, states: "In addressing the increasingly challenging regional security environment, the United States and Japan resolved to ensure alignment of Alliance visions and priorities through key forthcoming national security strategy documents. Through its strategic review process, Japan expressed its resolve to examine all options necessary for national defense including capabilities to counter missile threats. Japan and the United States underscored the need to closely coordinate throughout this process and welcomed our robust progress on evolving Alliance roles, missions, and capabilities, and on bilateral planning for contingencies." 20 The May 23 Japan-US Joint Leaders' Statement referred to the Japan-US Alliance, stating, "The two leaders expressed their determination to continually modernize the Alliance, evolve bilateral roles and missions, and strengthen joint capabilities including by aligning strategies and prioritizing goals together." 21 Furthermore, according to a Ministry of Defense press release, at the Japan-US Defense Ministerial Meeting held in Washington on September 14, 2022, the Ministers confirmed that the strategies of Japan and the United States share the same direction and that they would align their respective strategies even more closely to strengthen the Alliance. 22 The Japanese Defense Ministry's press release did not provide details, but the US press release said, "[The two leaders] confirmed their shared goal to modernize the Japan-US Alliance, bolster integrated deterrence, and further cooperate with like-minded partners to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific." 23 In a newspaper interview about a week earlier, Defense Minister Hamada reportedly had said that the NSS and other security documents would be revised in light of the US integrated deterrence strategy. 24

The result of the ongoing coordination of the strategies of Japan and the United States is one of the key points to be reflected in the new NSS. It is almost manifest that "integrated deterrence" is the overarching concept in discussing the direction of the two countries' strategies.

Looking at the Biden administration's series of official documents, this concept did not appear in an explicit form in the March 2021 "Interim National Security Strategic Guidance." But it debuted in the "Fact Sheet: 2022 National Defense Strategy" submitted to Congress by the Defense Department in March 2022, as a means to achieve the Department's goals. 25 Deterrence is defined as something to pursue through efforts seamlessly crossing combat domains, theaters of war, types of conflict, various instruments of national power, and networks of alliances and partnerships. This is a concept in the Pentagon's defense strategy, which is explained in more detail in the form of a one-page boxed article in the National Security Strategy released by the White House in October 2022. 26 The 2022 National Defense Strategy devotes a chapter to integrated deterrence, stating that since competitors, especially China, are adopting holistic strategies of making full use of various means, the United States also needs to adopt a holistic response. 27

Some critics questioned how integrated deterrence differs from "government-wide efforts" or "holistic approaches," criticizing it as no more than a mere political slogan. 28 Some argue that all elements of national power should be used to deter foreign aggression; however, if dependence on non-military tools is used as justification to restrict the investments necessary for building sufficient US military power, such an approach is a wrong way to deter China and Russia, which are alien to the United States. 29 Whether or not integrated deterrence defined in the US National Security Strategy and 2022 National Defense Strategy can withstand these criticisms depends on its implementation in the future.

Next, I would like to stress the following three points in association with the revision of Japan's NSS. First, there are concerns that the idea of integrated deterrence may lead to the diffusion of security concepts under cover of government-wide efforts, turning, as a result, the NSS into a collection of agendas prioritized by different government ministries and agencies. It is also feared that government ministries may be inclined to assume that putting a "security" label to their projects may help obtain the budget necessary to implement them. It is a matter of course that military power alone cannot defend the nation. On the other hand, "the Japanese have long failed to recognize that military power has an essential role in building peace and that a nation seeking peace must have the will to ‘use' military power if necessary." 30 What is deficient in Japan is defining the significance of military power for peace.

Second, if Japan seeks a strategy consistent with the US integrated deterrence approach, the "alliance coordination mechanism" between the two countries should be modified accordingly. It is a mechanism designed to facilitate the operations of the JSDF and the US military; it involves the relevant ministries and agencies insofar as their contributions are necessary for the military operations. It lags behind the mechanism established by the legislation to deal with contingencies, which is the government-wide crisis management mechanism. Furthermore, the "Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation," on which the alliance coordination mechanism is based, and even the Japan-US "2+2" mechanism may not be wholly consistent with integrated deterrence for similar reasons. The time has come to create a larger mechanism to promote Japan-US security cooperation on a government-wide basis. I believe that the Japanese government, as a whole, needs to establish, to this end, a new division of roles and missions and a cooperative relationship between the two countries.

Third, the issues to be covered by the NSS are not limited to policy measures implemented by the Ministry of Defense and the JSDF. They are closely related to matters under the jurisdiction of almost all government ministries and agencies. Therefore, not only the Ministry of Defense and the JSDF but also each of the other ministries and agencies should work out their strategy, principles and road maps to implement policies based on the NSS and should implement them in a systemic and consistent manner. 31 The NSS should provide guidelines for this purpose, and the National Security Council should function as a command post for the ministries and agencies.

5. Some Points at Issue: Defense Spending, Japan Coast Guard, Human Resource Base

The JSDF alone cannot defend the country. 32 It is also a truism that "to drastically reinforce Japan's defense capabilities, it is essential to strengthen the comprehensive defense architecture and to mobilize Japan's capabilities by overcoming stove-piped administration and by maximizing the effective use of policy resources." 33 This is why we must formulate an NSS. We do not have to brandish the word "DIME (Diplomacy, Intelligence, Military, Economy)" to explain what security is. Security is originally as such. 34

However, in today's Japan while admitting that "the JSDF alone cannot defend the country," one cannot but repeat the obvious truism: "The country cannot be defended unless the JSDF is strong." 35

As the spotlight is cast on the "2% of GDP" and the "NATO definition" of defense spending, the government is planning to introduce a system to budget and keep track of expenses related to research and development and public infrastructure as expenses that would contribute to reinforcing comprehensive defense architecture. 36 It may sound good that "the system helps clarify thoughts on defense spending and use ministerial budgets broadly for security purposes." 37 But it is uncertain whether or not those financial resources will be in fact assigned to security purposes (particularly for the JSDF's use). The system is feared to end up being a way to pad defense expenditures and to appropriate extra budgets for other ministries and agencies.

The defect of this argument lies in its starting from thoughts on defense spending. What is needed to realize government-wide efforts on security issues is not a taxonomy of expenditures.

There is a broad range of issues to discuss, but I would like to take up just two. The first one is the role of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) in national security. The JCG plays an important role in Japan's national security, as is clear from its daily confrontation with China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands. This is a clash of national sovereignty assertions and differs from the relationship between criminals and the police who hunt them. Given the current situation, no one would oppose strengthening the capabilities of the JCG.

However, the CCG is not a mere law enforcement agency. There is no guarantee that an organization endowed with the status of a law enforcement agency alone can aptly deal with an entity more than a law enforcement agency. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) and the JCG insist that they will "appropriately conduct policing activities in territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands, based on current laws." 38 Their intension to never change Article 25 of the JCG Law is noticeable in this statement, but is it appropriate? Will they continue to be reluctant to cooperate with the JSDF and the US military by using Article 25 as a pretext? If the JCG continues to encourage Southeast Asian countries to have the same institution as Article 25 of the JCG Law with Japan's ODA as its tool, will such support help those countries to respond to the threat of CCG?

Secondly comes the issue of the human resources. The NDPG of FY2019 and beyond begins the section on "Priorities in strengthening core elements of defense capability" with the topic of "Reinforcing human resource base," 39 which seems to have priority over "Reinforcing technology base" and "Strengthening defense industrial base." As the population is declining rapidly, accompanied by low birthrates and aging, there is no hope for improvement in the chronic shortage of manpower without drastic and long-term measures.

However, there is no mention of the human resource base in the handouts 40 submitted by the Ministry of Defense to the Advisory Panel to Comprehensively Discuss Defense Capabilities as National Strength. According to the "summaries of discussions" prepared by the same panel, only two out of 84 comments are related to reinforcing the human resource base. 41 This is in sharp contrast to that General Ryoichi Oriki, former Chief of the Joint Staff Office, devoted one page of his six-page handout to the issue of the human resource base. 42

Human resources are not cost to the national security.. They are valuable assets that shine brighter the more one polishes them. However, once the DPJ administration formulated its NDPG without understanding this, jeopardizing the human resource base. This is not a story in the remote past but at the time when the NDPG for FY2011 and beyond—the one before the last NDPG—came into being. Such political threats to the human resource base should never be underestimated.

The cycle of recruiting and training personnel and returning veterans to civil society cannot be maintained by the Ministry of Defense and the JSDF alone. This is a challenging task calling for government-wide efforts. Nonetheless, it is always hard to generate momentum to strengthen the human resource base because it is a low-profile field (less conspicuous than, for example, even securing ammunition) not in the spotlight. Voices to demand the reduction of JSDF personnel will never be silenced. However, are there not things we should discuss before that?

In any way, the entire picture of the Japanese government's new security policy will be available in December of this year. But it will be no more than a declaratory policy at that point. It is important, of course, for the government to communicate the substance of the policy to the domestic and international public with easily understood message, but the question is what and how policy measures will be put into practice. I believe it is of utmost importance to establish security policies that have the power to achieve their goals.

6. The Japanese Constitutional Issue

Since its very beginnings, Japan's postwar defense policy has been marked by "twists and inconsistencies" 43 associated with the relationships of the Constitution, the Japan-US Security Treaty, and rearmament. Its focus has been placed on domestic political tactics to circumvent constitutional constraints rather than on strategic discussions based on acknowledging the reality of the international security environment.

In his book "The Korean War," Fuji Kamiya once pointed out the following three impacts of the Korean War on the later course of Japan. First, the Korean War determined Japan's separate peace and the Japan-US Security Arrangements. Second, the Korean War brought a special procurement boom to Japan, which raised Japan's industrial production capacity to constitute a significant part of the anti-communist coalition in Asia. And third, the rearmament of Japan began, laying the foundation for today's JSDF. This 1966 book concludes with the following remark, "It is indeed unfortunate for our country that this great national project of restoring military power, once abandoned, was initiated by a GHQ directive and carried out without a national debate." 44

Furthermore, the fact that the Japan-US alliance has been a carry-over from the winner-loser relationship in the aftermath of the Pacific War 45 has irritated Japanese nationalism.

These backgrounds hinder the development of a healthy defense policy debate. Arguments ascribing everything bad to the Constitution or to the United States are not sound. On the other hand, however, leaving the Constitution as it is is not good for developing a solid national security policy.

In the first place, as the JSDF exists under the constitution that bans the possession of military forces, trust and confidence in legal norms will not be generated and may turn such phrases as "rules-based order" into empty slogans.

The oath of service of JSDF personnel includes the phrase "abiding by the Constitution, laws, and regulations of Japan." 46 The feelings of those who are obliged to take such an oath must be complex. Masahiro Sakata, former Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, describes the 2015 Japanese Legislation for Peace and Security as something like an "inventory-clearance sale" that goes beyond the authorization of the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. 47 It, however, was not an "inventory clearance" at all.

Every country has domestic political constraints on its security policy including the use of military force, and these constraints may take the form of legal ones. Meanwhile, it is irrational to consider requirements and procedures for using military force as "constraints." That said, since Japan's security cannot be ensured without international partnership and cooperation, Japan's security-related legal system must conform to international institutions and be easily understood by the international community. Otherwise, Japan will be considered a "strange country" and may not be taken seriously.

In the past, there have been cases where constitutionally permissible matters have been explained as if they were not—due to inadequate or inaccurate understanding of constitutional interpretation or deliberately by political considerations. Therefore, it is not appropriate to blame everything on the Constitution. Yet, the "twist" between the textual interpretation of the Constitution and the government's interpretation lies at the root of the problem.

Given this situation, we should reach some conclusion on the constitutional issue as soon as possible. However, this does not mean mere amendments to the Constitution. A constitutional reform that merely specifies the JSDF in the constitutional text or traces the government's current interpretation of the Constitution would be almost futile. Whatever a constitutional reform would be just an extension of the status quo unless it helps evolve a sound strategic theory and establish a rationally intelligible security policy. 48

(President, Research Institute for Peace and Security)

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