It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe frankly pointed out the precariousness of a defense-oriented policy that Japan has pursued since the end of World War II as a basic defense strategy.
At a Lower House Budget Committee meeting held on Feb. 14, Abe noted that “it is extremely difficult to define a defense-oriented policy as a genuine defense strategy.” The remark hints at Abe’s acknowledgement that “Japan would be effectively forced to accept a first strike from an enemy, which could turn the homeland into a battleground.”
Abe is probably the first prime minister ever to admit to the shortcoming of this defense-oriented policy in such a frank manner. His perspective is extremely reasonable. The government and the ruling parties must use this opportunity to proactively explain to the public the problems with Japan’s defense-oriented policy.
If Japan adamantly pursues the principle of a defense-only policy, the lives of many people as well as many Self-Defense Force personnel would be lost in vain in the event of an emergency. This is a wrong strategy and is equivalent to a “battle of the homeland” scheme, which even Japan dared not adopt in the previous war.
Under this policy, the chances of Japan’s being invaded would increase. A foreign nation could attack Japan at a lower risk because the SDF in principle would not be able to mount an attack against enemy territory.
The prime minister acknowledged these problems, but it is regrettable that he made clear that Japan would uphold the defense-oriented policy as a “basic principle in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.”
The Constitution makes no mention of a defense-oriented policy for Japan. A constitutional interpretation that does not focus on protecting the lives of the people and SDF personnel but emphasizes the point of weakening Japan makes no sense.
If Japan is bound by such an idea amid the deteriorating security environment in the region, this would become the largest impediment to the SDF’s fulfilling its mission to protect the Japanese people and Japan’s sovereignty.
The prime minister referred to the defense-oriented policy to rebut the criticism that the introduction of long-range cruise missiles “violates the defense-oriented policy.”
The introduction of long-range cruise missiles is perceived as being within the range of the defense-oriented policy. But the system needs to be fleshed out with equipment enabling attacks against the nerve center of the aggressor nation and eventually be turned into a deterrence against invasion in the future.
It is extremely important to maintain the strong Japan-U.S. alliance. Nonetheless, Japan must face up to the reality that taking a defense-oriented policy alone is insufficient.
Japan is at a crossroads where it must choose between a strategy that cannot protect the people and a shift to a “proactive defense” strategy that enables mounting to a degree a counterattack against an aggressor nation. (Abridged)