JASDF Colonel Seiki Kageura, an international fellow at Brookings, wrote a paper on how think tankers and the media view Japan entitled, “Japan’s Defense Policy: The View From Washington D.C.” (PDF).

The survey — and the responses by think tankers to the survey — stirred up some things I’d been thinking about for some time. Most importantly, that I think everyone is smiling and saying that the U.S. – Japan relationship is just fine. I don’t hold that opinion, so taking the survey myself was a way to express recent thoughts.

Some of the ideas are politically untenable at this time. The ideas represent a goal state may not be immediately attainable, but with work and vision there’s no reason why Japan can’t get there. Especially if Japan continues to be egged on by unruly neighbors.

If you want to take the survey yourself, click on the link above and paste your answers into comments.

Note: questionnaire questions in bold italics. Follow-up questions (and answers) indented. Alternate answers excluded for the sake of brevity; see the link above to read all of them.


1. Do you think the current JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) capability is enough?

Yes: What are the reasons? Is it enough in the midst of rising Chinese military power? 

Yes. The current size and structure of the JSDF is sufficient to protect Japanese territory at this time. The JSDF is roughly the same size that it was during the height of the Cold War, when the primary adversary was the Soviet Union. The combat power of China, in my opinion, does not yet exceed that of the Soviet Union. I do, however, expect that to eventually change.

That having been said, I think that a shifting of the defense posture and priorities, within the existing defense framework and budget, should take shape. For example, I think more anti-access, area denial forces for the Senkakus should be purchased at the expense of Japanese armored forces stationed in Hokkaido. The Japanese defense establishment seems to be proceeding along these lines.

Do the US forces balance powers in the North East Asia?

No. US forces shift the balance of power heavily against China. The U.S. is the only country with a sizable offensive capability exceeding any other country’s ability to defend against it.

2. Japan’s capabilities against Chinese ballistic missiles are said to be limited. In order to 
deal with those concerns, do you think Japan should hold the capability to attack in- depth missile sites? 

At this time I do not think Japan should hold the capability to attack in-depth Chinese ballistic missile sites.

Reason #1: Japan is politically weak and even if such a capability were implemented, it would have no credibility.

Reason #2: Striking Chinese ballistic missiles is dangerous because of their dual-use nature. An attack on Chinese ballistic missiles could be seen as an attack on China’s nuclear deterrent.

Reason #3: Japan building an offensive capability against Chinese ballistic missiles starts an arms race that Japan will lose. China will always build more ballistic missiles. An asymmetric response that plays to China’s weaknesses would be more appropriate.

I do think that a strike capability against North Korea is worth pursuing, since North Korea has a limited ability to produce ballistic missiles, and a limited number of launch facilities.

a. Yes: What can be the role sharing between US Forces and JSDF?

I do not think that there should be role sharing between the U.S. and Japan on this issue, except that the United States has more intelligence surveillance reconnaissance assets than Japan that can act as an early warning.

3. Do you think the US has the intention, if it needs to, to fight militarily in Asia?

a. Yes: Beyond Vietnam and Korean War experience? And even if you take risks in fighting other nuclear club members?

Yes. The U.S. intends to fight no war. However, it will take military action to defend its allies and interests in Asia and the Pacific, even if that includes confronting other nuclear-armed powers.

When it comes to the U.S. entering a conflict, that an adversary is nuclear-armed would not necessarily be the most important consideration.

4. In the diplomatic relationship with China, Russia and South Korea, Japan has disagreement with each country regarding territories, and they are Japan’s security concerns. What are the ways to deal with those issues? 

a. Go strong: How?
b. Leave as the way they are: It means the continuation of tensions. Why do they 
become the benefits for Japan? 
c. Pull or Compromise: How?

I believe that these are complicated issues and there is no single answer to Japan’s territorial disagreements. But, in a nutshell:

Northern Territories: Go strong. Confront Russia’s occupation and bullying techniques, especially flying nuclear-capable bombers near Japan’s borders.
Takeshima/Dokdo: Give it to South Korea. Seriously, just let it go. The Koreans already occupy it, and there is no conceivable possibility that they will ever give any part of it up.
East China Sea: Go strong. Fortify the Senkakus so that the Miyako Strait and other transit points can be closed to the PLAN.

5. The current relationship between China and US-Japan seems to have many differences, particularly in the field of economic ties, from that with the ex-Soviet Union during the Cold War. Some say the more economically intertwined China becomes with the US and Japan, the less chances it will resort to arms to solve bilateral conflicts. Do you agree with them?

The China-Japan relationship is very lucrative for China. Cut off the flow of money, and the Chinese economy will suffer. A good Chinese economy provides legitimacy to the Chinese political leadership. The leadership understands this. China will bluster and bluff, but in the end, I believe that China will not resort to force against Japan. The leadership can always change the nationalist narrative to avoid conflict.

All that is predicated, however, on the assumption that Japan remains strong and decisive enough to make it clear to China it will be confronted if it acts aggressively. If Japan through its actions makes it clear that it would not oppose Chinese aggression…that makes such aggression more likely.

a. Yes: How could it be explained that rising tensions surrounding the Senkaku Islands and Japan-China economic relationships seem proceeding in tandem with each other?

Yes. China is a complex country, and it should be no surprise that it occasionally has conflicting desires. It believes it is now strong enough to expect everything it wants from other countries.

The question is, is Japan ready to accede to China’s expectation that tensions in the South China Sea and the Japan-China economic relationship can proceed separately, or will Japan insist that one effects the other?

There is a fundamental problem in this response: linking the two issues requires strong political leadership on Japan’s behalf. That leadership does not exist.

6. Do you think the Japanese constitution should be amended?


a. Yes: What parts of it should be altered? In detail? Why?

I believe that Article 9 of the Japanese constitution should be repealed. I believe that occasionally force is a legitimate tool of the State. I believe that Article 9 was useful as a tool to institutionalize an aversion to force in Japanese society, but now that Japan is a responsible country it should be able to choose to use force, particularly to defend itself, its allies, and Japanese interests at home and abroad. A repeal of Article 9 would also fully legitimize the Self Defense Forces, whose current legitimacy is based on some fairly spurious logic.

7. Do you think that Japan’s official interpretation on collective self-defense under the Japanese constitution (i.e., Japan has that right, but is not allowed to exercise it) hinders or will hinder the relationship between the U.S. and Japan?

I believes it hinders the relationship between the United States and Japan. As an American, I believe that the massive inequality of defending Japan without Japan having to reciprocate is unfair to the American people. As a person of Japanese descent, I believe that the inability of Japan to defend its allies (particularly those pledged to defend it) is shameful.

a. Yes: Some say that non-exercise of collective defense and the stationing of US Forces in Japan (plus, massive facility charge for the US Forces) is a sort of “give-and-take” in the US-Japan Security Treaty. How do you see their logic?

I understand and accept the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty within the context of 1960. However, in 2012 I believe that the “give and take” has become deeply outmoded and needs to be replaced by a new “give and take” that takes into account, for example, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of the communist threat, and the rise of China. The underpinnings of the U.S. – Japan alliance have changed dramatically, and it is time to make adjustments.

b. No: Do you think the US-Japan Treaty one-sided?

I do not believe the U.S.-Japan Treaty to be one-sided. Both sides get things that they want. However, I do think the treaty is holding Japan back from becoming a politically mature country.

Don’t get me wrong: partnering with the United States is Japan’s greatest strategic accomplishment, and the U.S. – Japan relationship should only grow stronger. I do think it needs to change, though. A different relationship does not equal a weaker relationship, nor would it inherently threaten the stability of the entire region.

8. Do you think Japan should abandon its three non-nuclear principles of not possessing, 
producing or permitting the introduction of nuclear weapons to the country?

a. Yes: Which of the three should be abolished? Why?

I believe that Japan should abolish all of the principles in order to legitimize a Japanese independent nuclear deterrent, and have the maximum latitude in doing so.

Principle #3, that nuclear weapons should not be introduced into Japan, has always been a sham anyway due to the presence of American nuclear weapons.

9. (Additional Q for the Q8′s answer “Yes”) Should Japan hold its autonomous nuclear deterrence capability?

At its core, I believe the U.S. nuclear umbrella over Japan to be an illusion. When push comes to shove, the United States would not trade San Diego for Osaka. And why should it? Japan has the third largest economy in the world. Japan should be able to handle a confrontation with China to the extent that it could threaten Shanghai if the Chinese threatened Osaka. It is unfair to the American people to burden them with the risk of nuclear annihilation simply because Japan believes itself too principled to end its anti-nuclear stance.

There is the world you want to see, and the world you live in, and Japan is trying to live in the world it wants to see while burdening the U.S. with the reality of the world they both live in.

And while we’re at it, what is the point of Japan’s anti-nuclear stance if Japan itself relies upon American nuclear weapons to protect it. Frankly, Yang Jiechi was right when he tore Katsuya Okada a new asshole. What right does Japan have to lecture anyone on nuclear weapons while it hides under the American nuclear umbrella? Japan’s anti-nuclear position is naive at best and hypocritical at worst. Japan should remove itself from the American nuclear umbrella or build an independent nuclear deterrent.

a. Yes: Will the U.S. accept the change of power balance in East Asia?

Yes, I do think that Japan should hold its own autonomous nuclear deterrence capability. The U.S. would accept it — after all, the United Kingdom maintains an autonomous nuclear deterrent, while having just as close a relationship with the United States and arguably even fewer existential threats to justify it.

10. What do you think about including more female personnel in the military? Japan has 
about 5percent of entire personnel, while the U.S. about 15-20 percent.

I don’t believe that having not enough women is a problem for the Self Defense Forces. I do not believe that there is a certain percentage of women in the SDF that will make it better, or worse.

b.No: How do you explain the differences between US and Japan?

I think that, on a broader, societal level, the bigger problem is a lack of opportunity for women in Japan in general. The differences between the U.S. and Japan are largely  due to American society’s encouragement of American women to participate in nearly all aspects of society. I do not believe that Japan does this.

11. In your judgment, what are the highest priority issues that the U.S. and Japan deal with together?

I believe that the highest priority issues for the U.S. and Japan to deal with together are:

1. The economic issues of both countries.

2. Japan’s increasing insularity, incluing the failure of the country to make English more widespread.

3. Scrapping the 1960 U.S. – Japan security treaty and replacing it with something one based on mutual, equal responsibilities.

4. Solving public opinion issues generated by U.S. bases in Japan.

5. Tighter integration of U.S. Forces and the JSDF, including joint deployments.

12. Do you identify yourself, relatively speaking, as a regional or a security expert?

I would not identify myself as either.

13. Are you, relatively speaking, a Pro-Republican or a Pro-Democrat?


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A contributor and editor at the blog War Is Boring, Kyle Mizokami started Japan Security Watch in 2010 to further understand Japan's defenses and security policy.
Kyle Mizokami has 536 post(s) on Japan Security Watch