A government advisory panel recommended Monday that Japan scrap some of the basic principles that have guided the nation’s postwar, self- defense-oriented security policy and be more flexible in drawing up a new defense strategy.
In a report submitted to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the panel said the government should consider whether Japan should possess the capability to attack foreign missile bases to pre-empt potential launches against the country.
It also recommended the government relax its ban on arms exports.
The panel called for a review of the Basic Policy for National Defense — a foundation for postwar defense policy approved by the Cabinet in 1957 — and advocated building a “multifunctional, flexible defense force” to meet new security challenges posed by terrorism, ballistic missiles and international crime syndicates.
The advisory panel, headed by Hiroshi Araki, former president of Tokyo Electric Power Co., had been debating Japan’s security policy and defense posture since April.
Its report will provide the basis of a new National Defense Program Outline to be created in November, along with the outcome of discussions at a Defense Agency panel that has been debating similar subjects for more than three years.
Japan’s defense posture has been defined by the concept of a “basic defense force” since the National Defense Program Outline was created in 1976. The concept, which states Japan should maintain a minimum basic defense capability to avoid a power vacuum in regions surrounding the country, is seen as having been a restraint.
The advisory panel called it an outdated idea of the Cold War era, “which presupposes that threats will only come from other states.” It instead hammered out the fresh “multifunctional, flexible defense force” concept.
The report says that while heavy weapons, including tanks, artillery, destroyers and fighter jets, should be substantially reduced, the government should also maintain an effective defense capability by improving its intelligence-gathering and analysis functions as well as its emergency response ability.
On whether Japan should have an offensive capability to pre-empt a missile attack, the report says the government should consider various factors, including the effectiveness of a new missile defense system and the level of deterrence offered by the U.S. military. Japan should also consider the possible impact that acquiring such a capability would have on its neighbors, it says.
The panel proposed that a new main duty of the Self-Defense Forces, beyond the mainstay national defense, should be contributing toward international peace and security, because this would “prevent the emergence of threats by improving the international security environment.”
It urged the government to expand the role of SDF troops on overseas missions to maintain security — a role Japan has so far avoided because it could require the use of force. Japan has limited the roles of troops dispatched overseas to humanitarian aid and logistic support.
The Japan-U.S. security alliance is posited in the report as an ongoing basis of national defense, and the panel recommends that the bilateral security treaty and related guidelines be updated.
This proposal was apparently made in reference to ongoing talks between Tokyo and Washington toward reassessing the U.S. military presence in Japan, which is part of U.S. plans to update its global defense posture.
Experts have warned that the planned realignment of U.S. forces in Japan could violate the 1960 bilateral treaty, which authorizes the U.S. presence to maintain security in Japan and the Far East, because the U.S. is aiming for a “more agile and more flexible” deployment of its military.
The panel also said Japan’s ban on arms exports, introduced in 1967, should be lifted “at least to the U.S.” because it could become an obstacle if and when the Japan-U.S. joint research on missile defense moves to the development and production phase.
It urged the government to consider the extent to which the ban could be lifted in terms of weapons and technology as well as the countries to which Japan could safely sell them.
The 10-member panel, made up of professors, business leaders and former bureaucrats, said the new defense strategy must be drastic and comprehensive to reflect the new security environment.
It said a review of the 1957 Basic Policy for National Defense, which emphasized the collective security system under the United Nations over the Japan-U.S. security alliance, must be considered because the security situation surrounding Japan has changed so much since it was adopted nearly half a century ago.
In a supplementary statement, it called for active debate on the Constitution so that Japan can develop a more practical security policy.
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