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Diplomatic and Security Policies of The Democratic Party of Japan: The Final and Most Important Issue for Prime Minister Noda

Sadaharu Kataoka
Professor, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University

The Noda administration is now facing many challenges both domestically and internationally. The meeting of the three party heads from The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), and New Komeito on October 19th-the first held under the new leadership of the DPJ and LDP-broke down, leading to a situation in which the Noda administration cannot secure cooperation from the LDP and New Komeito for urgent issues, including the bill for issuing deficit-covering government bonds and a correction of the disparity in the relative weight of one vote in the House of Representatives election. If the special deficit-covering bonds bill continued to be shelved, such bonds could not be issued and the national budget would run out, resulting in an emergency situation. How will Prime Minister Noda compromise with the demand from the LDP and the New Komeito for early dissolution? He attempted, furthermore, to enhance the buoyancy of the administration by reshuffling his cabinet, but his plan already ended up going wrong once various scandals were revealed about Justice Minister Keishu Tanaka.

Looking overseas, Japan has been in sharp conflict with China and South Korea over territorial issues since the summer of 2012. Even after the Japanese government re-nationalized the Senkaku Islands, Chinese vessels continue intruding into Japanese territorial water around the islands unashamedly every day, indifferent to the government's decision. On September 25th, an aircraft carrier long awaited by the Chinese navy, named Liaoning, went into service. It is the first Chinese aircraft carrier, though it was built by modifying a former Soviet aircraft carrier called Varyag. China is now demonstrating its enhanced naval power domestically and internationally.

The basic strategy of the Chinese navy is to expand its sphere of influence to the so-called second island chain, which extends from the Bonin Islands through Guam and Saipan, American military's strong points, to Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. So far, Chinese penetration into the ocean has only reached the first island chain from Okinawa through Taiwan to near the Philippines. The Chinese have, however, recently extended their activity beyond this point. In fact, the first island chain itself goes beyond the exclusive economic zone claimed by Japan and passes through Japanese territory.

The term of Prime Minister Noda ends in August 2013 at the longest. If he does not elect to "go to the people soon," he must work out policies that could be significant for the future of Japan in the remaining ten months. Specifically, it is desired that Mr. Noda make more efforts in diplomatic and security issues. As the last prime minister of the DPJ government, he should address these challenges, risking his own political life.

The DPJ government has been facing historical crises that shook the foundation of Japanese national security. Because this mixed party naturally has no common fundamental platform, they have not been able to take fully consistent security policies. Established in September of 2009 with the people's hope and expectations, the administration of Yukio Hatoyama advocated building an equal partnership between Japan and the United States, proposed the East Asian Community initiative actively led by himself, went astray in the issue of returning the Futenma base, and kept failing to make the right political decision to endanger the foundation of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Whereas DPJ highlighted the "deepening of the U.S.-Japan alliance" as one of their achievements in their manifesto for the Upper House election in 2010-the reality was the polar opposite. The Kan administration gradually lost the trust of the people due to their response to the incident where a Chinese fishing vessel collided with a Japanese patrol vessel near the Senkaku Islands. Until immediately before the Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster, the Kan administration had had their back against the wall with a stagnant approval rating in the 20% range, failing to pass FY2011 budget-related bills. Ironically, the disaster resulted in the extended political life of the Kan administration. Though the administration went so far as to call the disaster "the worst crisis in history," they continued with normal responses consistently.

China is currently increasing their defense expenditure year after year. Their 2012 defense cost increased by 11.2% year on year to JPY 8.7 trillion. Chinese defense spending has already continued a two-digit increase for over 25 years in a row, expanding approximately 30 times compared to 25 years ago. This figure reportedly does not include equipment procurement costs and research and development expenditures. It is China's usual practice to release an intentionally undervalued amount as their defense cost, as the Soviet Union frequently did during the Cold War.

What measures should Japan take against this military expansion of China? The most rational option would be to strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance, which China would hate. The peaceful emergence of China would be a common desire of Japan and the U.S. It was reported that Prime Minister Jun'ichiro Koizumi said "the better the Japan-U.S. relation, the better the relations with other countries, including China and South Korea."

We feel uneasy, however, if we always have to be sensitive to America's state of mind. We should consider increasing the defense expenditure as an option, though some are concerned over being locked into a security dilemma. Japanese defense spending was flat until recently, and it has been decreasing slightly since 2002. With only less than JPY 5 trillion, Japan is still keeping the defense cost within 1% of GNP, although there is no obligation to do so. The amount was JPY 4.6826 trillion in 2011, and it slightly increased to 4.7138 trillion in 2012. The ratio of the defense expenditure to GNP is 2.9% for South Korea, 2.2% for China (probably around 4% in reality), and over 4.7% for the U.S. The United Kingdom and France-nuclear powers and member states of NATO-spend about 2.5 to 2.7%. Even Germany, which was defeated in the World War II like Japan, sets aside 1.5%.

What if Japan attempted to finance national defense by themselves beyond 1% of GNP without relying on the U.S. force in Japan? Because Japan does not own nuclear weapons as the U.K. and France do, Japan requires at least 3% of GNP only for conventional forces. This would result in the range of JPY 15 trillion, even by a simple calculation, and Japan currently cannot afford such a huge amount for national defense. It would be possible, however, to consider increasing it slightly. If the Noda administration also prepares the 2013 budget, I hope that they turn toward increasing defense spending.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has his own view on security. He was an advocate for the creation of a new constitution, and to exercise the right of Collective Self-defence when he was an ordinary congressman. U.S. government officials had high hopes for the Noda administration when it was established in September 2011. In fact, the evaluation of the Noda administration by U.S. security officials was high, because it is advancing the issue of returning the Futenma base, albeit gradually. In addition, the administration decided to significantly relax the Three Principles on Arms Exports on December 27th, 2011. This relaxation will enable international joint development, production, and supply of weapons. Previous LDP administrations discussed relaxing those three principles, but they could not make a determination. Noda accomplished what the LDP administrations could not for over 40 years.

I also want the administration to address amendment of the current governmental interpretation regarding exercising the right of Collective Self-defence, as well as establishing a Japanese version of the National Security Council (NSC) to further enhance the function of the Prime Minister's office, along with increasing defense spending, during the short remainder of their term.

In particular, the issue of executing the right of Collective Self-defence-whose traditional interpretation is that the right can be owned but not be exercised-is a barrier that previous administrations had not been able to overcome, and the most important issue in terms of security policies. In 2006, the Advisory Panel on the Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, which was established at the Prime Minister's office sponsored by Prime Minister Abe, came to a conclusion that allows amendment of the interpretation, but it came to nothing because of the early withdrawal of Abe in 2007. If Prime Minister Noda, who adopted decisive politics as his slogan, could take the plunge to amend the government's interpretation of the right of Collective Self-defence during the short remainder of his term, it would definitely be a tremendous historic achievement. This is because enabling execution of the right of Collective Self-defence simply helps solve the problem of one-sided obligations in the Japan-U.S. alliance, reinforces the alliance, and makes it work much better. (Written on October 20th, 2012)

Sadaharu Kataoka
Professor, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University

Graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University. Doctor of Political Science, University of Paris 1 Panth辿on-Sorbonne. Worked for the Embassy of Japan in France as a member of the Political Section responsible for the Middle East and Africa from 1996 to 2000, and The Japan Institute of International Affairs as a fellow in charge of Europe and Africa from 2000 to 2004. Started to work for the School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, in April 2004. The President of the Waseda Institute of International Strategy, Waseda University, since April 2006. Assumed his current position in April 2011. Has a large and deep human network worldwide comprising many politicians and government officials in Europe and African nations as his acquaintances. Has maintained a friendship with former Mali president Tour辿 for 15 years. Specializes in International Relations, conflict and development in Africa, international security, etc.