(Sankei: November 28, 2015 – p. 4)
The security laws enacted last September expanded the sphere and areas of Self-Defense Force (SDF) operations. While there are still people who criticize these laws as “war laws,” as if the SDF will be invading other countries, in reality, they will serve as “deterrence” to prevent war. They have already become a new “weapon” in Japan’s diplomacy, working as deterrence to counter unilateral attempts to change the status quo.
At a news conference held in Malaysia on Nov. 22, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated: “While we support the U.S.’s ‘Operation Freedom of Navigation,’ this is the U.S.’s own operation.” He stressed that Japan has no plan to participate in the operation.
However, Abe also stressed: “We intend to fully examine various options while closely watching the possible impact on Japan’s security.”
If the situation in the South China Sea, which lies on the sea lane to Japan, deteriorates to an extent detrimental to Japan’s security, the option of dispatching the SDF remains on the table.
The previous law on contingencies on Japan’s periphery was ambiguous on whether Japan can get involved in a contingency in the South China Sea. The new security laws removed the geographical restriction. Operations by the SDF, which has a high degree of interoperability with the U.S. forces, in the South China Sea will certainly be a “nuisance” to China. While Abe has not specified what operations he had in mind, he no doubt put “pressure” on China to exercise restraint.
The security laws have quickly reinforced the security network with friendly nations sharing common interests, including the U.S., Australia, and India. This became evident at the meeting of Japanese and Australian foreign and defense ministers (2+2 talks) on the South China Sea situation on Nov. 22.
With China’s building of artificial islands in mind, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani asserted that “it is important for the region as a whole to raise its voice to say that this is unacceptable.” In response, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expressed strong support for Japan’s security laws. Cooperation between Japan and Australia, which are both allies of the U.S., will put even stronger pressure on China. Such cooperation is only effective because it is backed by the security laws authorizing the exercise of the right to collective self-defense.
In its cabinet decision of July 2014, the Abe administration revised the constitutional interpretation of the collective defense right and set down the “three new conditions for the use of force.” The main point of the three conditions is that the collective defense right can be exercised “when an armed attack against a foreign country 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.” The security laws define such a situation as a “survival threatening situation.”
However, unlike other countries, Japan’s exercise of its collective defense right will not involve full-fledged use of force for the defense of another country but will only be limited to “self-defense.”
There is an opinion that this is too restrictive because a delay in SDF actions may result in the need to engage in more intense fighting and may even aggravate adverse effects on the people. (Slightly abridged)