The 2007 white paper on defense, the first such government report since the Defense Agency was upgraded to the Defense Ministry, stresses that the Self-Defense Forces must become an organization that can better cope with crises and contribute to world peace, saying the days are gone in which the SDF could be content with concentrating on building deterrence against invasion.

In line with the revision of the SDF Law, which upgraded the SDF’s overseas activities to a level on par with the defense of the national territory, the white paper says that the SDF is required not only to deal squarely with problems happening both at home and abroad in order to protect the Japanese people’s lives and property, but also to cooperate with foreign countries to promote world peace.

The Defense Ministry’s fervor is apparent. But it becomes all the more important, as the white paper says, that the SDF faithfully follow the policy of a strictly defensive defense and the principle of Japan not becoming a military power under civilian control if the SDF’s activities overseas expand as expected.

The white paper says the role of the nation’s defense capability is not limited to preventing and coping with full-scale aggression against Japan but includes dealing with various emergency situations such as terrorism and peacekeeping operations of the United Nations, supporting the nation-building process, and increasing the trustworthiness of the SDF vis-a-vis other nations in the field of security.

If these missions are carried out at full scale, the character of the SDF will greatly change. The SDF must give a full explanation to the people and the Diet before it launches new missions abroad. The Diet must exercise its power fully to make sure that the SDF’s activities are in line with the principle stipulated in the Constitution. International cooperation must not be used as a justification for limitless expansion of the SDF’s overseas activities.

The government and the international community must exhaust diplomatic efforts to solve international problems. In working out policies for the SDF, the Defense Ministry must strictly keep in mind that the Constitution prohibits the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

It is worrisome that the white paper parallels the Abe administration’s attempt to instill patriotism in children through the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education. The white paper says: “We (meaning the Japanese) have inherited not only our national land but also the language, the customs, the life system, history and traditions, literature and performing arts and thoughts from the distant past. . . . Every one of us has the duty to defend this nation.”

The Defense Ministry is clearly trying to impose a certain attitude and thinking toward the Japanese nation and its history through this type of language. It simply should stop preaching to the citizens about patriotism. It should respect citizens’ right to formulate their own thoughts about the nation’s history and what the nation should be like.

The report says that Japan’s defense capability cannot give full play to itself unless supported by the people’s strong trust. As examples that betray the people’s trust, it mentions bid rigging in the construction of defense facilities involving officials of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency and instances of drug use by SDF members. The SDF also suffers from leaks of sensitive information.

In early June, the SDF sent shudders among people when it surfaced that Ground Self-Defense Force’s information security units had carried out surveillance of citizens, politicians, journalists and civic and religious groups during a period of grassroots opposition to the dispatch of a GSDF unit to Iraq. Until the Defense Ministry gives a clear explanation of the information security units’ activities, public suspicions and fears about the SDF will linger.

The white paper expresses concern over China’s military buildup and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. China’s defense budget has seen double-digit nominal growth for the 19th straight year. The report says the military balance between China and Taiwan is shifting in Beijing’s favor, and expresses the fear that China is trying to develop the capability for deploying naval and air forces far from its coastal areas. As for North Korea, it says Pyongyang has considerably upgraded its ballistic missiles.

China must increase its transparency about its military buildup, while Japan must promote dialogue with China to lessen mutual suspicion. Japan and its partners in the six-party talks must unite and employ every available means to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.