The Liberal Democratic Party, the party likely to gain the most seats in the upcoming election, has put out an election manifesto with two not particularly new but nonetheless interesting proposals.
1) For Japan to embrace exercising its right to collective self-defense (集団的自衛権行使) if necessary, either by constitutional change or constitutional reinterpretation if necessary.
2) Change the name of the SDF to the National Defense Military (国防軍), and specify the validity of its existence in the constitution.
Various corners of the Japanese media are labeling the LDP manifesto as one that is deeply “coloured by conservatism,” and given proposals to redo the textbook authorization system and other language used in the doucment this is reasonably fair.
The prospects may not be that great for full success on either of these proposals however, at least for the time being. As for number one, the LDP’s likely coalition partner, the New Komeito, has come out and stated unequivocally that while they are open to negotiating on various issues, one they will not compromise on is the continuation of the “Defense-Orientated Defense” doctrine (専守防衛). Komeito leader Yamaguchi also noted (日) that the government’s current (Cabinet Legislative Bureau) interpretation that collective self-defense is not allowed by the constitution is correct, and thus were against the collective self-defense proposal. The LDP may find others political actors interested in this proposition – Hashimoto, Ishihara, even Noda and others in the DPJ. Japan’s soon-to-not-be Minister of Defense Morimoto Satoshi has welcomed (日) the LDP proposal saying it is natural for this to be debated although he is a noted supporter of such proposals. But the relationship with Komeito is of priority for the LDP, as sacrificing this relationship will likely hurt the LDP’s hold on many SMD districts, and potentially send the Komeito into the arms of the “centrist” DPJ. Unless the LDP somehow gets 241 seats on their own in this election, the proposal is unlikely to go forward unless further political realignment takes place.
As for the second proposition, almost all have come down hard on the LDP for this suggestion, albeit for different reasons. Noda has criticized the LDP for being unrealistic and misguided in terms of what the most important things are for this election. He questioned whether such a proposal was even a serious one given the issues of the current election and the difficulty of effecting constitutional change. Komeito also noted (日) that the current name is perfectly fine. Even Hashimoto Toru of the JRP, a supposed nationalist, has said (日) that he is against the proposal, saying that the name was fine, many in the SDF itself were perfectly happy to identify with a Self-Defense organization, and anyway the more important question was whether defense spending should be increased (or otherwise).
The other defense issue making the rounds is one of JRP leader Ishihara Shintaro suggesting that Japan use its space and related technologies to simulate a nuclear test which would deepen the latent nuclear deterrent Japan already effectively maintains. While this has got many up in arms, this is probably a compromise for Ishihara who has often advocated for nuclear weapons in the past. He also pragmatically said this was his personal opinion and not the Japan Restoration Party’s position. Hashimoto also confirmed this, and noted that the Japanese citizenry are not interested in acquiring nuclear weapons and that was fine. He did however say that thinking about such issues was appropriate as nuclear deterrence may be one way of protecting the lives of the citizens. Hashimoto continues to skirt a fine line on nuclear issues – not long ago he argued that nuclear disarmament was somewhat of a pipe dream. Ultimately however the Japanese public is in no mood for anything nuclear right now so such statements will have no real impact.
Corey Wallace joined Japan Security Watch in 2011. He writes on Japan security-related topics, focusing on issues and stories that may not find their way into the English language media. He also hosts the blog Sigma1 where he writes on Japanese domestic politics and broader issues in international relations.
Prior to taking up a PhD Corey was a participant on the JET program (2004-2007) and on returning to New Zealand he worked at the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology from 2007-2010 as a policy adviser. Corey lectures two courses at the University of Auckland. One is on the international relations of the Asia-Pacific, which contains a significant focus on East Asia security issues. The other is a course on China's international relations.
His primary academic interests before his current Japan focus were science and technology politics/policy, issues of ethnic identity, and Chinese modern history and politics. He carries over his interest in issues of identity and history into his PhD where he is looking at generationally situated concepts of national identity and their impact on foreign policy ideas in Japan.
Corey Wallace has 46 post(s) on Japan Security Watch