Onodera met with USMC officials in January 2012 to discuss Operation Tomodachi. A native of Kesennuma, where US Marines operated extensively following the tsunami, perhaps Onodera will bring an understanding of the importance of Japan's defense relationship with the US

Onodera met with USMC officials in January 2012 to discuss Operation Tomodachi. A native of Kesennuma, where US Marines operated extensively following the tsunami, perhaps Onodera will bring an understanding of the importance of Japan’s defense relationship with the US

With the new (old) Prime Minister, comes another new Defense Minister: Itsunori Onodera.

Onodera was born in Kesennuma, a fishing town in Miyagi Prefecture hit quite severely in the 2011 tsunami. While he has no direct experience of defense politics and administration, he has a great deal of foreign policy experience.

In 2007, he served as senior vice minister for foreign affairs for the last month of Abe’s previous term in office. Before this he gathered at least 7 years of direct academic or politics experience in diplomacy and international politics, including a stint as assistant research fellow at John Hopkins and leadership positions in party, parliamentary and government foreign affairs committees. Hopefully this international political perspective will help him consider the diplomatic issues facing Japan’s expected push on defense under Abe – including making progress on the relocation of Futenma, securing the Senkaku islands, and increasing defense ties.

The Ministry of Defense has always been a pet project for Abe, and it seems this new term is no different: the Ministry has been in a flurry over the New Year in an attempt to consider how it will shake up its defense vision in a review of the National Defense Program Guidelines and Midterm Defense Program, and with the planned request for increased defense budget, the question of how and where to spend the new funds is pressing upon administrators.

What is clear is that “Dynamic Defense”, that buzzword of the past two years, will soon be replaced with a new, or perhaps older, vision. Much of this vision is being directed top-down from Abe and LDP policy heads, how Onodera falls among the other progressive cabinet members isn’t quite clear yet. Still, the year ahead could be a golden year for Japanese defense, if not for economic recovery.

Japanese Prime Ministers and their Ministers of Defense

Japanese Prime Ministers and their Defense Ministers (2013-01)

Japanese Prime Ministers and their Defense Ministers (2013-01)

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch