The Khmer Times, 2 November 2016
After assuming the premiership in December 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration took a critical step in reforming Japan’s security and defense policy.
The changing global environment, and the particularly severe security environment in East Asia, has forced Japan to innovate its defense strategy.
Japan cannot secure its own peace and security by itself and the international community expects Japan to play a more proactive role for peace and stability in the world.
Japan played a critical role in the Cambodian peace process. It was the co-chair of the third committee of the Paris International Conference on Cambodia in July 1989 and hosted the Tokyo Conference on the Peace of Cambodia in June 1990.
Japan dispatched for the first time after the end of World War II its personnel to the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia from September 1992 to September 1993, such as Japan Self-Defense Forces, civil police, ceasefire monitors and election observers.
In 2013, Japan launched the concept of “proactive contribution to peace,” which aims to proactively contribute to securing peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world based on the principle of international cooperation and rule of law.
The politically controversial legislation for peace and security was approved by the Japanese Diet in September 2015 and took effect in March 2016. The legislation is expected to enable seamless responses to any situations to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people and enable Japan to contribute more actively to the peace and stability of the international community.
Under the new legislation, Japan is allowed to participate in a wider range of operations under UN peacekeeping operations, including the use of weapons for the defense of mandate, and participate, under certain conditions, in other internationally coordinated efforts for peace and stability outside UN Peacekeeping Operation framework.
The Self-Defense Forces will be able to provide necessary logistics support as well as search and rescue to armed forces of foreign countries, and will be allowed to use weapons to rescue Japanese nationals overseas given the consent of the territorial state and certain other conditions met.
The defense strategy has three basic features. First, there is continuity in Japan’s basic posture and orientation in the past 70 years, including a peace-loving nation. Second, Japan continues to enhance the deterrence provided by the Japan-US alliance and deepened trust and cooperative relations with other partners.
Third, Japan is willing to exercise the right of collective self-defense provided the three new conditions are met.
The three new requirements for “use of force” as measures for self-defense are: (a) when an armed attack against Japan occurs or when an armed attack against a foreign country that is in close relationship with Japan occurs and as a result threatens Japan’s survival and poses a clear danger to fundamentally overturn people’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, (b) when there is no other appropriate means available to repel the attack and ensure Japan’s survival and protects its people, (c) the use of force is limited to the minimum extent necessary.
In terms of maritime security in the Asia-Pacific, Japan has remarkably strengthened its maritime capability. The number of major units and equipment for the Maritime Self-Defense Forces has increased relatively significantly.
On the South China Sea issue, Japan has taken a proactive approach. In the remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2014, Prime Minister Abe laid out three principles on the rule of law at sea.
First, states shall make and clarify their claims based on international law. Second, states shall not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims. Third, states shall seek to settle disputes by peaceful means.
Japan will continue to cooperate closely with the US and other strategic partners in the effort to maintain peace and stability in the region. Japan has actively supported capacity building of the coastal states, especially the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as joint exercises with partners such as the US and the Philippines.
Asean is one of the strategic partners of Japan in implementing its robust defense and security policy. Japan expects Asean to play a leading role in promoting a rules-based and trust-driven regional order in East Asia and beyond.
Unity and consensus are therefore necessary to prove the security and strategic relevance of Asean.
While the probability of large-scale military conflict remains low, the security environment in East Asia has become more severe. Security challenges and destabilizing factors are too diverse and widespread for a single country to address alone.
International cooperation is the foundation of peace and stability.