With barely any notice from the US media, Japan’s conservative LDP government has embraced a counter-strike strategy – giving it the ability to strike enemy bases overseas – for the first time since 1945. The announcement has sparked protests in South Korea and Japan and generated outrage in North Korea and China. The first of a two-part article.
On December 16th, 2022, the Japanese government led by Fumio Kishida issued new “defense guidelines” that will give the country the ability to launch offensive attacks on enemy bases overseas for the first time since its Asian empire was crushed in 1945 by the combined might of the United States and the Soviet Union.
The guidelines, fervently backed by the U.S. government and the DC think tanks representing the military industrial complex, are the last nails in the coffin of Japan’s Peace Constitution, which only allows Japan to take military action in self-defense. That document was imposed by U.S. Occupation forces after the war and has been in the cross-hairs of both the Pentagon and Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party since the 1970s.
The new “National Security Strategy of Japan” was spelled out in three key defense documents, and departs from the past in three critical areas. First, it declares that China is now Japan’s number one threat and poses “the greatest strategic challenges ever seen” in Tokyo. North Korea, which has traditionally been mentioned first as a hostile state, now represents a “severe and imminent threat.”
Second, it doubles Japan’s spending on its military – already one of the largest in the world – to over $350 billion, two percent of the GNP, over five years. It includes plans to strengthen the firepower of the Japanese Maritime and Air “Self-Defense Forces” (SDF) and upgrade Ground SDF units to prepare for emergency scenarios (meaning war) on Taiwan.
Third, it adopts a “counter attack” ability to hit enemy bases in China, North Korea, and elsewhere that could be applied if Japan is ever attacked.
“With the security environment surrounding Japan becoming unstable amid threats from China, North Korea and Russia, Tokyo, which has rejected warfare for the past 77 years, will be able to directly attack another country’s territory in case of an emergency,” Kyodo News explained. While the Constitution only allows Japan to act in self-defense, the National Security Strategy says the nation now needs the ability to “make effective counterstrikes in an opponent’s territory as a bare minimum self-defense measure.”
The NSS also includes controversial language that would allow Japan’s SDF to take offensive measures against any enemy force that threatened the United States. That change is “especially significant,” South Korea’s progressive Hankyoreh said, noting that the Kishida government has specified that its enemy strike capabilities could be applied not just in cases when Japanese territory is threatened but also in situations “where the U.S. is under attack.” Hankyoreh added:
For example, a North Korean attack on a US warship in the East Sea in an emergency on the Korean Peninsula could be deemed an “existential crisis,” where the JSDF would be able to strike against the North according to its “collective self-defense” rights if the US wishes. This means the possibility that peace on the peninsula could be instantly shattered by the decisions of Washington and Tokyo and Japan’s use of force, as the JSDF comes to insert itself in the peninsula’s affairs.
By further undermining the Constitution, the new policies expands the militaristic vision of the late Shinzo Abe for “collective self-defense,” a phrase that made Japan’s longest-serving prime minister a heroic figure in the eyes of Washington and leading politicians of both parties. In 2015, with strong U.S. backing, he pushed through legislation that now allows Japan’s SDF to take part in overseas military operations for the first time since World War II.
As I wrote in The Nation at the time, Abe’s victory transformed Japan – with its surprisingly large, tech-driven military-industrial complex – into “America’s new proxy army.” Kishida’s new policy takes that another step further, and will vastly increase US arms sales to Japan….