On September 18th, Japan made a bold move that managed to do three very distinct things:
1. Rewrite a law structure that the country’s military has been laboring under for seven decades.
2. Change the standard daily footing of their military.
3. Piss off to no end almost everyone in the region and inside the country itself.
Article 9 of the Japanese constitution is the passage within the Nihonkokukenpō dai kyū-jō (Japanese constitution) that (legally) disallows the sovereign nation of Japan from engaging in any international dispute with military force. That’s called the “right of belligerency.” That limitation was self-imposed on May 3rd, 1947. So…awhile back. This course of action was more or less a direct result of the Imperial Japanese having failed to achieve the supremacy they were seeking over the Western Pacific and East Asia. (The actual direct result of that shortcoming was, of course, getting nuked. Twice. Oops.)
This was all arranged to be seemingly impossible to overturn legally. It was supposed to take both houses of the Japanese parliament (the Diet) and a public majority vote on the matter. All of this is spelled out in Article 96 of the same constitution.
Other bits of Article 9 also specified things like armed forces with war potential will not be maintained…which has been happening since well before the Occupation Forces even left the country. So, for lack of a better phrase, this whole situation was one big—ahem—slippery slope. The U.S. was never going to have what it took to man that watch 25/8, so it was not only Japan’s not-quite-overt push for a greater and broader regional military presence and posture, it was also the U.S.’s logistical and/or operational lack of elbow grease to do what it agreed to do.
The current situation
As of July of last year (2014), the Japanese government under the current prime minister, Abe Shinzō (last name first, remember), pulled a somewhat Rumsfeldian approval of a “reinterpretation” of Article 9 by allowing the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to shift to an aggressive posture when defending allies (globally) in the event that war had been declared upon Japan. The U.S. approved of and supported this move.
The rhetoric here was set as “collective self defense”…and no one else in the region was keen to see it come to fruition. But since Big Brother had already signed off on it, it was rolling through the chain. This collective self defense thing also, by extension, allowed the JSDF to engage alongside allies anywhere. Fine print, dudes. Can you read it?
With all the subtle developments regarding the posture, readiness, and application of the JSDF over the last decade, it’s not exactly a surprise (unless you’re just not paying attention) that everything has come to this. I’ve mentioned in a couple of different articles here on SOFREP about how the J-SOF and J-intelligence communities have been on overdrive development-wise over the last nine years. (That right there is what we in the being-informed business call “an indicator.”)
In July of this year (2015), the lower house of the Diet—the House of Representatives—voted to officially change this defense posture. The upper house—the House of Councillors—had a set timeline of 60 days to respond to and vote on the change. If the Councillors failed to do so, the Representatives get to run it again and make it a law.
The Councillors voted—148 to 90—for the change. And the Japanese SHIT-O-METER slid right into the bright red REAL zone.
Prior to the law being passed, fights broke out within the Diet itself. Thirteen people were arrested for interfering with officers/official processes, and more than 13,000 protesters arrived outside both parliament and Abe’s house.
So what the hell does this mean for Japan, the U.S., Northeast Asia, and me? For Japan and for the U.S., it means that at the low end, Japan will man-up more force/show-of-force in the region. And, when the SHTF, Japanese forces are now (legally) able and willing to provide direct support in the form of sea lane/navigational security, air defense, air superiority, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, general logistical support, and armed hostage rescue and assistance to HR. Japan can also start appropriately responding to regional threats and issues of its own accord.
At the high end, America has just allowed Japan to give itself its balls back. It’ll be a long road, but the trajectory for Japan’s re-inclusion into regional defense issues was started more than a decade ago with the dusting off and sharpening of several processes and personnel, and the slow but sure removal of U.S. forces on the home islands and on Okinawa.
Internally, Japan is collapsing in on itself. The vast majority of the Japanese citizenry is either fully against this move, or simply doesn’t care. The numbers are pretty staggering. For instance, 70 percent of the populace does not believe that the JSDF will “never get involved in U.S.’s wars” (Abe). Or, 76 percent of the population believes that the discussion was rushed and the change was not well thought out. In July, when the representatives passed it in their house, there were actual suicides among the protesters. So…I guess some citizens felt very strongly about it.
In response to his almost instantaneous drop in popularity, Prime Minster Abe did what every good globally poised politician would do. He went on vacation, and played golf.
The regional “partners” that are not based in North America are, of course, not happy. The People’s Republic of China has already issued official political rhetoric calling it all illegal and fundamentally belligerent. Which, of course, they would, since they want as little pushback as possible while they do whatever they want in the region.
What does this mean to your good ol’ friend The Odyssean? I’m glad you asked. When we started spinning up dudes to head (back) to Afghanistan in autumn of 2001, it was like “Charlie Wilson’s War” all over again: The government had retained very few people who could even spot that shit show on a map, much less drum up a fair country brief. OB (order of battle, how countries mobilize and apply their military forces) and real political understanding of Japan is scarce.
Several months ago, I jumped the gun on this whole topic by publishing the first installment of my Three Rivers analysis. At the time, although well ahead of the game, I opted to hold off on the rest of that info until the hammer actually dropped. My foot was in the door before most other jokers in this game even knew there was a door they should be looking for, or at—much less sticking things into. As such, the rest of that Sawanobori will be forthcoming, as its timeliness and relevance is now readily apparent.
Also, check out James Powell’s ahead-of-the-game article on the subject.
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