UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Japanese Military Power 2012

July, 2013

Report on Japanese Military Power 2012
China Strategic Culture Promotion Association


I. Policy Adjustment
A. "Normalization" of national defense is stepped up under conservative governments.
B. Dynamic defense cooperation—military adjustment in support of the U.S. strategy of rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region
C. Defense realignment and reinforcement in response to island dispute between China and Japan

II. Military Strength

III. National Defense Budget

IV. Military Deployment

V. Weaponry and Equipment
A. Strengthening maritime surveillance and deterrence with a focus on preparation for "island invasion".
B. Continuing to construct anti-missile air defense systems.
C. Updating conventional equipment for greater rapid response and deployment capabilities.
D. Enhancing air warfare superiority under current circumstances.
E. Increasing military investment in space technology.

VI. Organizational Amendments
A. Integration with U.S. military command systems.
B. Force modernization and base realignment.
C. Internal reorganization within the defense establishment.

VII. Military Training and Exercises
A. Regular JSDF exercises
B. Joint military exercises between Japan and the U.S.
C. Multinational maritime exercises between Japan and other countries.

VIII. Military and Security Exchanges
A. Expanding regional and multilateral security networks
B. Trend of development after the revision of "Three Principles on Arms Exports"


For more than 60 years after World War II, leading the world in terms of military technology, performance of military equipment, and training, Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) has developed into one of the strongest militaries in Asia in spite of legal and policy restraints imposed by the "Peace Constitution". In recent years, Japan has begun a new round of military adjustments according to changes in both international and regional security situation and U.S. strategic realignment. At the end of 2010, the Japanese government approved the National Defense Program Guidelines for Fiscal Year 2011 (2010 NDPG), and laid out the Mid-term Defense Program from FY 2011 to FY 2015 (2011 MTDP), outlining the force development plan in the next 5 to 10 years, focusing specifically on changes and adjustment in its security strategy, size of military force, military deployment and weaponry and equipment. Japanese military strength has developed along the guidelines set in the foregoing two documents; yet, under the two conservative governments led respectively by Mr. Yoshihiko Noda and Mr. Shinzo Abe, Japan has stepped up efforts to "normalize" national defense and become a major military power. This report aims at assessing Japanese military development in 2012 in terms of strategic realignment, military strength, military deployment, defense budget, weaponry and equipment, organizational adjustment, military training and exercises, and international military and security cooperation.

I. Policy Adjustment

According to the 2010 NDPG, Japan is committed to three major security and strategic objectives by four means. The three major objectives include ensuring Japan's peace and security, improving Asia-Pacific security environment and guaranteeing international security; and contributing to world peace, stability and security. The four means are, namely, effort on the part of Japan, cooperation with allies, cooperation within the Asia-Pacific region, and global cooperation. In other words, Japan, in order to maintain national security and realize its security interests, is ready to conduct multi-layer security cooperation with the U.S., Asia-Pacific powers, and the international community. There seems no change or revision in the objectives and means, yet, significant changes did take place in Japan's security policies.

A. "Normalization" of national defense is stepped up under conservative governments.

Firstly, progress was made by Noda's conservative government in its bid for national defense "normalization". When the Democratic Party came to power in 2012, "strengthening military power" was not included in Japan's efforts to seek a major-power status. For more than three years in power, from Hatoyama to Noda, the security policy of the Democratic Party had been gaining momentum, gradually swinging from the leftist to the rightist policy platform. In the 2009 campaign of the House of Representatives, the Democratic Party represented by moderate Hatoyama did not mention its defense doctrine in its campaign platform. By 2010, after the ship collision near the Diaoyu Islands and other incidents, Kan's administration returned to the military and security policy of"guarding against China while being close with the U.S." with its new defense program outlines. The 2010 NDPG echoed the guidelines previously released by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). But Kan's government had been unstable, and as a result, did not score much in its military buildup. Formed as a conservative and hawkish government in 2011, the Hatoyama administration was rather ambitious in "normalizing" national defense. In the 2012 general election, military-related ideas such as "unswervingly maintaining sovereignty, developing defense force, improving mobile defense force, attaching importance to the Southwest, participating in maintaining security of global commons such as air, space, sea and cyberspace" have been incorporated into its campaign platform. From December 2011 to the end of 2012, the Hatoyama administration has made significant progress in easing the "three principles concerning weapons exportation", revising the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and making amendments to relevant legal documents for future military employment of space and nuclear energy, and establishing an independent satellite surveillance system. All these are important issues concerning Japan's defense principles and policies. Led by the Hatoyama administration, security policy of the Democratic Party is similar to that of the LDP; in actuality, there is a tendency of convergence in security policies of the two parties.

Secondly, the Abe administration, formed in December 2012, has been more enthusiastic and ambitious in pushing forward "defense normalization" and "military rise". To certain extent, principles and policies adopted by the Abe administration is a reinforced version of his predecessor's. Mr. Abe has long sought to get rid of the so-called "postwar regime" and make Japan a normal nation, especially in terms of national defense. At the beginning of 2013, he created two special councils for discussions of collective self-defense and a Japanese version of National Security Council (NSC). In fact, for the few months since Mr. Abe became Prime Minister, the Japanese government has taken historic steps in attempting to revise Japanese constitution, create national defense force, amend the 2010 NDPG, exercise collective self-defense, establish an NSC, raise military expenditure, and build up military strength. Mr. Abe is keen on making breakthroughs in easing restrictions on Japan's military buildup, indicating Japan's will and resolve in pursuing defense "normalization" and a major-military-power status.

B. Dynamic defense cooperation—military adjustment in support of theU.S. strategy of rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific region

In 2012, to be supportive of the U.S. strategy of rebalancing towards the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region and its Air-Sea Battle concept, Japan initiated dynamic defense cooperation with the U.S.. The cooperation is intended to strengthen the JSDF, and accelerate its military transformation into a major military power. Meanwhile, the U.S. is in urgent need of its allies' support, especially that from Japan, for the implementation of its new strategic shift amid fiscal restraints and insufficient resources. Since the latter half of 2011, the U.S. has begun implementing its strategic rebalance with military deployment. Almost at the same time, in December 2011, the concept of dynamic defense cooperation came out of the talks between U.S. Secretary of Defense and Japanese Defense Minister. From the end of April to the beginning of May, 2012, "2 plus 2" conference between Japan and the U.S. and the talks between the two heads of state declared that dynamic defense cooperation was both a link in alliance deterrence and a new initiative of the coalition. The "2 plus 2" conference also reached a new agreement on relocating Futenma Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), isolating the issue from the redeployment of U.S. Marine Corps from Okinawa to Guam, so that reorganization of U.S. Forces in Japan (USFJ), transformation of Japanese defense and realignment of Japanese military deployment, and dynamic defense cooperation between the two countries will proceed smoothly against a backdrop of U.S. strategic rebalance. As tension was building up around the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the latter half of 2012, U.S. Defense Secretary and Japanese Defense Minister conducted two separate talks in August and September. As a result, the two countries decided not only to revise the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, but also to step up efforts for dynamic defense cooperation which the Japanese side interprets in the following three aspects: a. Joint training. For example, the two countries held their first joint exercise in overseas real-combat context for recapturing islands in Hawaii, Guam, and the Tinian in September 2012. Then in November, the two countries conducted Exercise "Keen Sword" off Kyushu and Okinawa. 37,000 troops, nearly 30 warships and 240 aircraft from the JSDF joined 10,000 U.S. troops in island defense involving maritime and air operations; b. Sharing bases and facilities. U.S. forces could use Japanese bases while the JSDF were not allowed to use U.S. bases until an agreement on sharing military facilities was reached. The agreement is conducive to improving the interoperability of the two militaries. The JSDF also benefits from the agreement in that it is now able to play a greater role within the coalition framework and its ambition to step outside its borders can be fulfilled; c. Closer cooperation in combat and support. Japan-U.S. cooperation in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) in the Western Pacific, in anti-missile, anti-submarine, and base protection operations is to be greatly enhanced. Besides, the Japan-U.S. Cooperation Initiative released after the talk in April 2012 between U.S. and Japanese heads of state announced bilateral cooperation in space situational awareness (SSA) using FPS-5, IT, etc. Along a similar line of development, Japan has been pushing for the deployment of V-22 Osprey cargo helicopters in Okinawa since the latter half of 2012.

C. Defense realignment and reinforcement in response to island dispute between China and Japan

As tension kept building up in 2012 around the disputed Diaoyu Islands, Japanese military adjustment has attracted global attention. In the past, Japanese media, when reporting JSDF's "Southwest Defense Program" and military drills on "recapturing islands", would more or less reveal Japanese military preparation for island disputes. Yet these reports did not represent official attitude or government policy. Military-related strong statements on the dispute around the Diaoyu Islands on public occasions began with Mr. Hatoyama. When he was questioned in a hearing held in the House of Representatives on July 26th, 2012, Mr. Hatoyama replied, "if illegal activity by any neighboring country takes place within Japan's territorial land and sea including the ?Senkaku' [Chinese Diaoyu] Islands, the Japanese government will respond without hesitance, exhausting all means and methods including the use of the JSDF, if necessary." In a press conference held the following day, Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto reiterated the position, emphasizing that what Mr. Hatayama said was necessary measures within the framework of Japanese laws. On December 26th, 2012, in a press conference right after he was elected Prime Minister, Mr. Abe promised that Japan would be committed to defending its territorial land and sea, stressing that "right now, on the seas around the ?Senkaku' [Chinese Diaoyu] Islands, officers and men from the Japan Coast Guard and JSDF are protecting Japan's air and sea. Japan's security does not rely on others; it is in danger now." Both Mr. Hatayama and Mr. Abe, within their capacity as Prime Minister, visited Japan Coast Guard's and JSDF's bases in Okinawa, respectively in June 2012 and February 2013, which is rather rare among post-WWII Japanese prime ministers. On the whole, Japan's military policies for the disputed islands are implemented in three steps: the first step is to use Japan Coast Guard, a paramilitary force, to control the situation; the second step is to step up JSDF's preparation for medium- and low-intensity armed conflicts; the third step is to ensure U.S. military involvement and support in case the conflicts escalate out of control. At the same time, Japan has been strengthening Japan-U.S. military alliance and displaying its effectiveness, both as a deterrent to China and as a policy support to the three steps mentioned above. The evolution of Japanese military stance related to the Diaoyu Islands is the result of both the development of its southwestern defense policies and Japan-U.S. "Dynamic Defense Cooperation" in the context of U.S. strategic rebalance amid growing dispute over the Diaoyu Islands around mid-2012. The Japanese government slipped further in the direction of armed conflict under the Hatoyama administration and the Abe administration that followed. As a result, military deployment, equipment upgrading, military drills and construction of military facilities have been sped up. Specific measures include: pushing forward Japan-U.S. Dynamic Defense Cooperation focusing on the Southwest, reinforcing F15 fighter wing based in Naha Air Base, considering transferring the Shimogishima Airport to military use, deploying E-2s and E-767s in Okinawa on a regular basis, studying the possibility of deploying a second X-band early warning radar in the Southwest or other locations, initiating revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, fielding PAC-3 missiles on "Southwestern islands" under the pretext of guarding against DPRK's missile threats, discussing whether to purchase AAV-7 and to deploy V-22 Osprey cargo helicopters, considering the establishment of the Japanese version of Marines Corps, etc. In addition, Mr. Abe also asked the Defense Ministry and relevant agencies to revise in advance the 2010 NDPG and MTDP, to work out comprehensive defense doctrines for retaking islands through joint operations, and to study the possibility of introducing U.S. Global Hawks to enhance surveillance and reconnaissance of the Diaoyu Islands. He also asked them to study the feasibility of building 10 more 1,000-ton patrol vessels for Japan Coast Guard and reorganizing its branch in Naha into Senkaku Exclusive Force composed of 600 troops and 12 patrol vessels. All these are interpreted in Japanese media as measures intended to enhance surveillance and reconnaissance of the Diaoyu Islands and responding to Chinese military "threats". Although they are not meant to provoke China into military actions, they have undoubtedly complicated and endangered the situation in which accidents might be triggered, and the dispute that already existed might escalate out of control.

In 2012, the three trends of development in Japan's security policies have negative implications on both regional strategic balance and China's security environment. Japan usually interprets "defense normalization" as an internal issue; however, in the specific historical context and guided by the rightist ideas and narrow nationalism, "normalization" will inevitably cause concern and anxiety. In terms of national politics, "normalization" reveals itself in Japan's attempts to revise the constitution and outgrow the postwar regime for military buildup and involvement in overseas military activities; in terms of diplomatic relations, it is seen in Japan's pursuit for closer Japan-U.S. military alliance amid closer bilateral relations, exploitation of "China Threat", and a strategy of military buildup aimed at curbing and containing China. To that end, Japan's "normalization" efforts have been involving more and more military aspects, thus poisoning the security relations between Japan and China.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list