Japan’s expanding peacekeeping roles in the post-Cold War period: Interaction between domestic and international norms


During the Cold War, Japan long avoided dispatching its Self-Defence Forces (SDF) to United Nations peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs). However, as discussed, Japan shifted its policy in 1992 by adopting the Act on Cooperation for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations and Other Operations (the PKO Law), Although this new law placed substantial constraints on SDF participation by simultaneously institutionalising the Five Principles, it was an epoch-making step for Japan, which had long avoided dispatching the SDF. Japan then revised the PKO Law in 1998 and 2001 to enlarge the SDF’s scope of action. Furthermore, the Shinzo Abe government expanded the latitude of Japan’s engagement in peacekeeping activities by adopting the Legislation for Peace and Security (the Security Legislation) in 2015.

As we have seen, the need to cooperate with other states to contribute to peace and stability in the world by participating in peace cooperation activities has gained currency. However, few works have examined how this international norm affected Japan's security debate and policy. By highlighting the gap between Japan's domestic norm and international norms and associated concepts, this chapter analyses why Japan continued to expand its scope of action within UN peacekeeping activities. The structure of the chapter is as follows. First, it explains internationally evolving ideas on the nature and scope of UN involvement in conflicts. Second, it examines the trajectory of Japan’s peacekeeping policy after the Gulf War crisis by analysing the domestic debates on the political front. It illustrates how Japan adjusted its peacekeeping policies to satisfy evolving ideas within the UN. By investigating the struggle between Japan’s domestic norm and international norms and associated ideas, the chapter illustrates how international norms affected Japan’s peacekeeping policy.

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