CEAC Commentary

February 28, 2022 

The absurdity of "minimum necessity"

By ARAKI Kazuhiro

 Today I'm going to talk about the term of “minimum necessity" related to defense capability. At the symposium of the Reservists' Blue Ribbon Association held in Grand Hills Ichigaya on December 10, last year, one of the topics raised was the “minimum necessity." Katsutoshi Kawano, former Chief of Staff, Joint Staff, and Kunio Orita, former head of the Air Self-Defense Force's Air Support Command, spoke about the “minimum necessity" defense capability, but the term sounds strange when you think about it. When defending Japan, the Self-Defense Forces must make "maximum" efforts to protect the people. For that purpose, I think it is natural to develop our defense capability in an efficient manner. However, I do not think it is appropriate that the idea “the less defense forces we have, the better" has been accepted until now . Of course, this does not mean that we should increase our defense capability boundlessly, but we should reconsider the point of the term "minimum necessity."

 Today, strengthening military power has occurred in the international society. Japan's neighboring nations such as China and South Korea, have very large sum of budgets to strengthen military power . As of North Korea, that has a military organization, is far too large relative to its economic condition, and yet, the nation has been promoting the “military first" policy. In East Asia, Japan is the only nation that has not spent enough expense on its defense capability. However, looking around the movements in Russia, China, and North Korea, we have to evaluate the fact that Japan has been the only nation that has consistently moved in a different direction since the end of World War II; hence, we must take a step back and reconsider Japan's way of thoughts.

 First of all, the literal meaning of the term "minimum necessity" is that the current defense capability is already sufficient to defend Japan. Is there anyone who thinks this is true thoughts in the current situation? The fact that North Korean spy ships have been coming to the seas and coasts of Japan for many decades and their agents have been landing on Japan and escaping for decades is enough to disprove the above definition. Of course, we cannot say that the Japan Coast Guard is solely responsible for this. The spy ship that was sunk off Amami Oshima was armed with a 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun and an RPG-7 rocket launcher. The Japanese government has not been able to address the fact that warship-like ships with capabilities of coming and going in the waters of Japan without respect of Japanese law, while carrying out a variety of maneuvering activities.

 To deter this, the Self-Defense Forces themselves should have a certain level of military power, not the "minimum necessity." Unless we take "maximum" efforts to protect the Japanese people, rather than the "minimum necessity," and efficiently maintain the defense capability, we will not be able to sustain our "reasonable" defense capability. In that sense, I totally disagree with the introduction of Aegis Ashore, for example. Originally, the system was to be introduced because it would take the burden off Aegis ships and be effective against personnel shortage. In reality, it was not efficient and would have required a huge investment, which I think would have forced further reduction of expenses for general forces.

North Korea is a prime example of this, spending all of its money to develop its nuclear capability and frequently firing warhead-carrying missiles. Because of this, their general troops have less food to eat. Japan's Self-Defense Forces are not in as much trouble as the North Korean forces, but from the standpoint of development, in the defense capability, I think that Japan has a very distorted security system.

 I think the root cause of the operation and equipment of the Self-Defense Forces being managed through such an irrational system by the postwar regime. GHQ initially believed that Japan's completed disarmament and demilitarization policy could be seriously realized, that is reflected in the article of the Japanese Constitution. They were really trying to overturn the pre-war industrial policy that had promoted industries and turn the country into an agricultural nation. They thought that this would keep Japan quiet and benefit to the US. However, even if the Japanese military were to disappear from Japan, the US. would still have to protect Japan from new or remaining geopolitical threats to the Japanese archipelago. Naturally, if the US has not protect Japan, Japan would be free to rearm again. So, even after the occupation ended, the US military was stationed in Japan to control and protect Japan; at the end of result is the current Japan–US alliance. Japan's postwar security system, which was formed in this way, is complicated. However, there is no doubt that there is a historical reason why the system has become so distorted. How have Japanese people dealt with this problem? In the end, we have been able to get by with a lot of fudging and muddling through. I think that the term “minimum necessity" defense capability was created as a technique in this context. However, it is undeniable that if we are stuck with or trapped by the term “minimum necessity" defense capability, we will not be able to defend Japan.

 Wars will probably will never disappear as long as hatred and envy are existed in the human mind. Of course, the form of conflicts may change. China has coined the term "Unrestricted Warfare," and it is no longer the case that a war starts only after a declaration is made. Even the distinction between wartime and peacetime may be disappeared. In any case, we have no choice but to survive in the international community, facing the ever-evolving threat of war. Various issues such as the Senkaku Islands dispute and the Northern Territories dispute are also challenging Japan's security system with unprecedented intensity. Russia, even in the 21st century, is massing troops on the border of Ukraine, ready to engage in a war with NATO, and China is eager to eliminate US influence from Taiwan. Imagine that these high-intensity military threats are headed toward Japan. You can see how strange it is to use the term "minimum necessity" to measure defense capability.

 It would be difficult to suddenly go back to square to redesign Japan's security strategy and defense capability development just because the concept of "minimum necessity" is wrong. However, at the very least, the future direction of defense system should be to defend the country by ourselves.

(This is an English translation of the article written by ARAKI Kazuhiro, Professor, Institute of World Studies, Takushoku University, which originally appeared on the e-forum "Hyakka-Somei (Hundred Ducks in Full Voice)" of CEAC on January 26, 2022.)