Key concepts: Opposing ideas and domestic and international norms in Japan


Chapter 1 provided a theoretical framework for analysing the recent shift in Japan’s security policy. Even though a norm is allegedly shared, various interpretations and approaches are likely to arise due to the elusive nature of norms. Therefore, to examine a state’s policy, we need to analyse the ideas held by groups such as political parties. In addition, the influence of international norms also affects a state’s behaviour. Unless it chooses to distance itself from the international community, a state is permanently exposed to an international norm. Consequently, a state is likely to come to accept and eventually internalise the international norm, in some cases after modifying it.

This chapter examines how this framework can be applied to the analysis of Japan’s security policy. It provides definitions of the basic concepts employed in the analysis. The first section provides a definition of Japan’s domestic norm. The second section explains the ‘normal state’ and ‘anti-militarist’ concepts by focusing on the political parties that promoted these ideas. It then describes the international norm analysed in this book.

Japan’s norms and ideas in the security field

Japan’s domestic norm of non-use of force

Japan’s domestic norm in the security field is symbolised and institutionalised in Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from waging war. The content of Article 9 is as follows:

Chapter II - Renunciation of War

Article 9

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces as well as other war potentials will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised.

However, it was not the Japanese who institutionalised Article 9 of the Constitution. It was the US that drafted the Constitution during the occupation period. Given this history, one may hesitate to conclude that the domestic norm was truly institutionalised in Article 9. A traditional view argues that the norm would be institutionalised after the internalisation of the norm occurred.1 Yet Japan’s case is in contrast to the traditional argument because the idea was first institutionalised as part of the Constitution by the US. In due course, the idea spread and was then internalised.

During the occupation period. General Douglas MacArthur, who acted as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, demanded that the Japanese government led by Shidehara Kijuro (1945-1946) revise the existing Meiji Constitution. The US aim was to ensure that Japan would never again wage war by disarming and thus weakening the country. However, dissatisfied with a Japanese draft that only minimally revised the Meiji Constitution, MacArthur ordered US General Headquarters to draft a constitution based on three principles. First, the Emperor was to remain Head of State, and imperial succession was to remain dynastic. Although Washington and other allied powers held negative views of Japan's imperial system. MacArthur preferred to preserve the system so as to govern Japan smoothly. Second, Japan would renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation for settling disputes, even for preserving its security. A Japanese Army, Navy, or Air Force would never be authorised. Third. Japan must abolish its feudal and patriarchal family system. However, renouncing war, even for preserving its national security, significantly worried the Japanese side. It seemed that maintaining independence as a sovereign nation would be jeopardised.2

Fortunately, Japan’s concerns turned out to be groundless. The Constitution drafted by US General Headquarters was softer than MacArthur’s injunction. The preamble of the Constitution reflected his spirit, emphasising the importance of peaceful cooperation with other nations in pursuit of prosperity. It also proclaimed that sovereign power resides with the people. The draft rehabilitated the Emperor as the symbol of the state (Article 1 ). The essential equality of the sexes (Article 14) and a broad range of civil liberties and human rights were guaranteed. To establish civilian control and block any re-emergence of militarism, Article 66 also forbids military personnel from holding cabinet posts. MacArthur’s second principle was embodied as Article 9, which stipulates the renouncement of war. However, one of his original principles—which denied war as a sovereign right of the nation, even for preserving its security—was intentionally omitted. Therefore, after making minor revisions, the Japanese government eventually accepted the US draft. Later, this revision opened the way for the creation of the Self-Defence Forces (SDF).'

Major newspapers welcomed the democracy and pacifism embodied by the Constitution. Knowledgeable Japanese observers also thought highly of Article 9. According to the opinion survey conducted by Mainichi Shimbun in 1946, 70 per cent of educated respondents supported the spirit of Article 9, which denies Japan's right to wage war.4 However, Article 9 did not specify that Japan was not allowed to possess defence capabilities or should not use force even for preserving its independence. The ambiguous wording of Article 9 therefore "planted the seed of decades of controversy’.5 This controversy over the interpretation of Article 9 became apparent after Japan concluded a security treaty with the US in 1951 and then established the SDF in 1954. Because the alliance with the US and the establishment of the SDF contradicted the wording of Article 9, both developments became symbols of divided domestic politics.

Nevertheless, the fundamental idea of Article 9 (that Japan would neither go to war nor use force) was gradually accepted and then prevailed among the Japanese. Regardless of interpretation. Japan agreed not to use force as a means to settle international disputes. The conclusion of the Japan-US Security Treaty and the subsequent creation of the SDF were controversial for some Japanese. However. they reassured many Japanese, thus helping the fundamental spirit of Article 9 to prevail.6 Since these ensured peace. Japan was able to firmly uphold the norm of non-use of force and retreat into an economic-centred world.

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