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Constitution Allows Japan to Build Military Forces – Just Ask MacArthur



The Izumo, a Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force's helicopter carrier, sets sail from Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture on Monday, May 1, 2017 to escort a U.S. supply ship.  It is the first such operation during peacetime under Japan’s national security laws as tensions mount in the region over North Korea. (Photo by Ryosuke Kawaguchi)



(Part 3 of 7)

I started this series as an attempt to debunk seven myths about Japan’s national security policy. Living in a democracy, and in peace time, a number of Japanese people have understandably not given much thought to national security issues, especially the possibility and dangers of war. The consequence, however, is citizens sometimes being persuaded by false arguments from the liberal media or from domestic or foreign critics.


Read the other parts of the series here:

Myth 1: Myth 1: Japan has no national security policy, and Tokyo only blindly follows the United States.  

Myth 2: Japan’s alliance with the US is dangerous—Japan might become “entrapped” in America’s “global strategy.”  


Myth 3: Collective self-defense has never been exercised by Japan, because to do so would violate the Constitution.


After the war, General Douglas MacArthur gave a directive to the Government Section of his general headquarters for the draft Japanese Constitution that the GHQ was assigned to write in less than a week. The document should include a provision that Japan would not have any army, navy, or air force for any purpose, including self-defense.


MacArthur’s staff, however, deleted the words “including self-defense.” When the American draft was considered in the Japanese Diet, Hitoshi Ashida changed the wording to outlaw military forces “for the purpose of settling international disputes.”


MacArthur’s civilian expert legal adviser immediately told the general that allowing this wording would permit Japan to legally possess military forces for self-defense. MacArthur allowed the wording inserted by Mr. Ashida. In 1950, the general ordered the Yoshida government to form the National Police Reserve. He also began to say that the Japanese Constitution did not outlaw defensive force, only offensive force.


It might be shocking to Japanese readers that, in my opinion, Japan has been exercising collective self-defense since the Occupation ended in 1952, and continues to do so today. In 1952 the Korean War was ongoing and United States forces in Korea were supported by the US bases in Japan, as was the case during the Vietnam War and in other conflicts in which the US participated.   


As already noted, Japan did not fight in any wars since 1952, but Japan allowed the US to maintain bases as called-for in the security arrangements with the United States.  


I believe that the story of the American couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who robbed banks and grocery stores in the early 1930s in the US, is fairly well known even here in Japan. Bonnie did not participate in all the crimes and usually was just the driver rather than the robber or a killer. But had Bonnie and Clyde been captured alive and tried in court, she would have also been guilty of Clyde’s actions.  


US force training at Kadena base in Okinawa, Japan


Japan has benefited from the deterrent value of American bases on Japanese soil. However, even though Japan has not fought, Japan has been in a collective partner. US forces based in Japan have been involved in defense actions, which have been facilitated by the support provided by their bases in Japan.  


Particularly during the last decade of the Cold War, from 1980-1989, the US Seventh Fleet and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Fleet conducted a collective daily patrol of the Sea of Japan and the waters of the Northwest Pacific, monitoring the activity of the huge number of Soviet Pacific Fleet submarines based in Vladivostok.  This peaceful collective action was so effective that it significantly complicated Soviet military planning for the Pacific, the essence of deterrence.  


JAMES E. AUER is the President and Director of the Auer U.S.-Japan Center [AUSJC] and Emeritus Professor of Vanderbilt University.  The AUSJC hosts Japanese researchers annually at its offices on the Vanderbilt campus, conducts the annual U.S.-Japan (Defense/Dual Use) Technology Forum for American and Japanese businessmen in Nashville and, since 2004, an annual U.S.-Japan Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Forum in Washington, D.C.

He served in the U.S. Navy from 1963 to 1983 in a number of positions including visiting student at the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Staff College (equivalent of the U.S. Navy War College) in Tokyo and serving as executive and commanding officer of guided missile ships of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. From April 1979 until September 1988, he served as Special Assistant for Japan in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

He holds an A.B. degree from Marquette University and a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. In December 2008 he received the Japanese Government’s “Order of Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.” 

In December 2015 he was named as the first foreign recipient of the annual “Sound Opinion (Seiron) Grand Prize” by the Fujisankei Communications Group.



This article was first published at Seiron Magazine 4, 2016