(Yomiuri: December 4, 2015 – p. 4)
The government’s National Security Council (NSC) will mark the second anniversary of its launch on Dec. 4. This new body has had an increasing presence as the control tower of foreign and security policies but it is also facing certain issues, such as the reinforcement of its functions.
The core component of the NSC launched in December 2013 is the “four ministers’ meeting” consisting of the prime minister, the chief cabinet secretary, the foreign minister, and the defense minister. They meet every other week and call emergency meetings to deal with cases like North Korea’s threat to fire ballistic missiles. A session was convened on Dec. 3 to discuss the Asia-Pacific situation and related issues. This “four ministers’ meeting” held a total of 52 sessions in the past two years.
Shotaro Yachi, head of the National Security Secretariat (NSS), which runs the NSC, engages in coordination with foreign governments based on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s instructions. In addition to talking to senior security officials of other countries, Yachi is also dispatched as the prime minister’s de facto “special envoy” to Russia, China, the ROK, and other countries with which Japan is grappling with difficult issues.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized the NSC’s achievements at his news conference on Dec. 3: “It has overcome the sectarian divisions among ministries to collect information across ministerial boundaries, in order to contribute to strategic and responsive policymaking.”
The NSC is also grappling with some issues. During the process of enacting the security laws last September, NSS officials were overwhelmed with work relating to the drafting of bills and preparing responses to Diet interpellations. A government source notes that as a result, “there were times when the NSC was not able to fulfill its designated mission of mid- and long-term planning and recommendation on security strategy.”
Many people hope for the NSC’s contributions in such areas as cyber security, space, international finance, energy, and science and technology. Kunihiko Miyake, research director at Canon Institute for Global Studies, observes that, “The NSC has significantly increased openness in foreign policy and defense. It will now be tested on how well it serves as the ‘brains’ in planning mid- and long-term strategy.”