The excellent Nippon.com has been publishing a series of articles covering Japanese foreign policy after the Cold War. The most recent, by Prof. Hiroshi Nakanishi of Kyoto University, addresses the watershed moment when Japan realized that it could not give the US what it expected in the run-up to the Gulf War – a moment that pressed forth the debate about Japan becoming a ‘normal country’, as Ichiro Ozawa once wrote.

President Bush requested Japanese support in the areas of transport and supply, where the United States’ own resources were stretched to their limits for a time in the midst of logistical planning for sending large numbers of troops to the Gulf. Because of the lack of a framework that would allow Japan to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to the Gulf, the government considered the possibility of chartering commercial ships and aircraft instead. But private-sector firms were reluctant to undertake missions to a war zone. When senior Japanese diplomat Tanba Minoru informed the United States that Japan could do virtually nothing to help in this respect, the Americans responded by noting that many of the ships then in the Persian Gulf were bound for Japan. The implicit suggestion was that Japanese shippers were willing to take risks when it was for the economic benefit of their own country.

Read the full article

It’s a nice overview of the issues and I agree with Nakanishi’s final statement that “it cannot be said that Japan has overcome the experiences of the Gulf War. The crisis and its effects continue to cast a shadow over Japanese diplomacy to this day.” That makes it all the more important that we understand what happened.

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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