5th Asia Security Conference

Speech by Fukushiro Nukaga
Minister of State for Defense of Japan
“Deploying Forces for International Security”
(5th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, 3 June 2006)

(Provisional Translation)

Distinguished Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to express my sincere condolences and deep sorrow to those who are bereaved or are suffering from the major earthquake in Java, Indonesia, which occurred last week. To assist in relieving the disaster, I have ordered the dispatch of SDF troops to provide assistance mainly in medical care. I sincerely hope that the disaster-stricken area will be rehabilitated and the life of people will return to normal as soon as possible.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and honor to make a speech on the occasion of the IISS Asia Security Conference, which can be regarded as one of the most significant high-level security forums in the Asia-Pacific Region. I would like to extend my gratitude to Dr. John Chipman and his staff, who gave me the opportunity to address this distinguished audience on Japan’s defense policy towards international security. I would also like to thank the Government of Singapore, which has been hosting this Conference from the outset.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to heartily congratulate the fifth anniversary of the Dialogue, now firmly established as a security conference in this region both in name and in reality. Today, only two sessions have so far finished, yet, I, as a newcomer to this conference, was able to grasp the importance and the value of this forum. Also, we were all attracted by the excellent hospitality of the hosts, and the gorgeous atmosphere of the hotel, which is literally “Shangri-La”.

The very fact that this Dialogue was launched and is continuing to date is clear evidence that efforts to improve the security environment are being keenly pursued in this region. Such a development was unconceivable during the Cold War era. Now it is a reality, because countries in the region have become much more interdependent, where they pursue an economic integration in an open manner and where, at the same time, they face common security challenges, including how best to cope with new threats such as international terrorism and the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction and their means of delivery.

Regrettably, there are a number of such challenges in this region. In the vicinity of Japan, there remains unpredictability and uncertainty such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the cross Taiwan-Strait issues. And let us not forget that even since the Shangri-La Dialogue last year, large-scale natural disasters such as an earthquake in Kashmir and a landslide in the Philippines have also claimed a great number of victims in this region. We have many common security challenges, such as these new threats and large-scale natural disasters, which can only be met by the combined effort of the international community.

The topic of this session is “Deploying Forces for International Security”. Deployment of forces abroad in the past was often done for the sole interest of the deploying country, and in many cases at the expense of the interest of other countries. But, today, the deployment of forces abroad is increasingly done to benefit the recipient country and the international community as a whole, and by doing so also to benefit the deploying country as well.

Talking about my own country, Japan’s peace and stability are inseparable from those of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. This idea is clearly stated in the National Defense Program Guidelines adopted in December 2004, in which proactive effort to improve the international security environment is considered as one of Japan’s security goals as well as one of the roles of Japan’s defense policy.

In this context, I would like to mention current developments in the Japan-US alliance. Over the past three years and a half, Japan and the United States had conducted intensive Strategic Dialogues to strengthen the alliance more deeply and more broadly, recognizing the changes in the security environment since 9.11. Japan and the US had worked to identify regional and global common strategic objectives, and worked on the roles, missions and capabilities of the two countries in pursuing such objectives. Thus the two countries have agreed to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in security and defense. On this score, both sides will place great emphasis not only on the defense of Japan and responses to situations in areas surrounding Japan, but also on efforts to improve the international security environment, such as participation in international peace cooperation activities. Following these developments, realignment initiatives of US forces in Japan were approved on May 1. With the common value of freedom and democracy as our major guiding principle, our bilateral efforts aim to bring peace, stability and prosperity not only to Japan and the US, but also to the Asia-Pacific region and the international community as a whole.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now let me touch upon our experience of the international dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces. Before the Gulf War of 1991, overseas dispatch of the Self-Defense Forces was very limited. Cadet training squadron cruises, bilateral training with the US and the operation of icebreakers to support scientific research of the Antarctic region were the only major unit dispatches of the Self-Defense Forces those days. Activities such as peacekeeping which does not involve combat operation were not conducted due to the lack of a legal basis to do so. Then why didn’t we make a legal basis? The strong political allergy against any dispatch of our troops overseas that existed among the Japanese people was one reason. In addition, it is not exaggeration to say that in those days, particularly in the context of the Cold War, the people of Japan were hardly conscious of the notion of “security” or the defense of Japan. Activities such as peacekeeping were considered to have nothing to do with the security of Japan.

But such concepts had to change after the end of the Cold War, and in the light of the current worldwide security situation. We realized that, in the new era, our security could not be fully achieved by simply safeguarding our territory, but that it also requires our active participation in international cooperative efforts to improve the international security environment. Thus, the first dispatch of the SDF overseas for the purpose of contributing to international peace and stability took place in 1991 immediately after the first Gulf War. The SDF conducted mine-sweeping operations in the Persian Gulf. Then, under the newly introduced International Peace Cooperation Law of 1992, the SDF participated in the UN peacekeeping mission in Cambodia in the same year. Then, the missions in Mozambique, the Golan Heights and Timor Leste followed. Refueling operations to support coalition vessels engaged in the Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean and the Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance activities in Iraq by the SDF, both under the Special Measures laws, are also a part of our recent major international activities. The SDF have accumulated their experiences step by step and in good faith. The SDF’s overseas activities have been appreciated by the countries concerned, and in Japan there is a growing political support for this type of overseas operation.

Because of constitutional, legal and political reasons, I admit that our international dispatch has various constraints. Most of all, the SDF is not allowed to engage in combat operations abroad other than those for the self-defense, and that fact restricts the type and range of missions it can perform overseas. But, ladies and gentlemen, we still can do a lot even under these restraints and recently we are using our creative power in exploring the best way to secure international peace and stability.

For instance, one of such examples is our effort to build good relations with local people. When our troops were newly constructing our camp in Samawah, Iraq, we employed local people for the construction work. When setting a barbed-wire fence around the camp, Japanese personnel tried to avoid acting as supervisors of locally hired workers. Instead, they joined the local workers and worked together, wearing out their own uniforms and with many cuts and scratches. Our way of doing business by showing our work ethics and sincerity gradually gained understanding of the local people. Some more words on our activities in Iraq, I myself visited Samawah last December. When I paid a visit to a school repaired by the SDF, I was very moved to see people in the neighborhood so impressed by seeing their own children studying in the renovated classrooms. In a hospital where the SDF were providing medical assistance, I was informed that the death rate of infants had been reduced to one third of what was in 2002.

Moreover, I would like to mention peacekeeping operation in Timor Leste as another example of our cooperation with local people. When we withdrew from there in 2004 after fulfilling our mission, we transferred equipment such as vehicles to Timor Leste at their request. But from our past experience, we understood that just transferring equipment was not enough. If proper training was not given to the local people who were going to use that equipment, it would eventually end up as junk. So the troops, before leaving, had offered operating and maintenance training to government personnel, so that they could serve as supervisors, operators and maintenance personnel of the equipment. And I learned that that had worked very well.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The reason why I mentioned all these experiences of ours is not to say that they should be the universal way of doing things. What I wanted to illustrate is the following. In the Asia-Pacific region, there is a great diversity among countries in terms of political systems, level of economic development and social conditions. Therefore, each country has its own restrictions and sensitivities. But when we really try to be creative, such restrictions or sensitivities do not necessarily become obstacles to cooperation among the countries in the region. And we don’t have to start from something very difficult, from something that requires a highly organized security system. We can start from something more acceptable, something that is easier to do.

Cooperative activity for maritime security in the Malacca Strait by littoral countries is one such effort, which I highly value. Japan cooperates with the littoral countries led by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Coast Guard as our law enforcement agency in the field. The Japan Defense Agency would also like to consider how best we can cooperate.

“Disaster relief” is also considered to be an area where it is relatively easy for countries in the Asia-Pacific region to cooperate, despite their various sensitivities and constraints. Armed forces from various countries cooperated in providing humanitarian assistance after the Sumatran earthquake and tsunami disaster, and after the major earthquake in Kashmir. Many countries are already in action in Java including the SDF as I mentioned earlier. All these show that disaster relief can be another area where we can start building up cooperation.

From such a viewpoint, the Japan Defense Agency took up international cooperation in disaster relief as a topic in the last year’s Tokyo Defense Forum, an annual symposium which we host with more than twenty participating countries and organizations. I would like to propose to develop strategies and procedures in advance to facilitate a fast response by armed forces in the face of disaster in this region, as discussed in the Forum. And we are willing to continue to take the initiative in the field of disaster relief to promote practical and concrete cooperation.

Generally speaking, in the face of a natural disaster, the armed forces have the capability to mobilize and promptly dispatch a certain numbers of personnel with physical strength to engage in relief operations. In addition, the armed forces are equipped with assets for transportation of food and other supply materials and for communication. In the future, these disaster relief activities by the armed forces could eventually develop into the area of peace support operation such as assistance in rebuilding a nation after a civil war or peace building activity. Therefore, disaster relief operation by the armed forces is an important subject when we contemplate the modality of future international cooperation by the armed forces. I hope Asian countries can share a common perception in this regard.

Japan is aware, more than ever, that the peace, security and prosperity of our country, our region and our world are interdependent. Based on the idea that world peace is inseparably linked to Japan’s peace, we will proactively cooperate with the international community. Engaging in international peace cooperation activities has been and is still a subsidiary mission of the SDF, but, in view of the importance of those activities, we are now considering the upgrading of these tasks as one of the primary missions of the SDF. It is my ideal to work towards establishment of a peaceful “Asia-Pacific sphere” which would be based on freedom and democracy, by generously offering “personnel, financial and technological” cooperation for peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this hall of Shangri-La Hotel, there is a deployment for international security, not of forces but of great wisdom. And from that wisdom, I believe, ideas and consensus could be produced to achieve a truly workable deployment of forces for international security in the region. Let us forcefully deploy our creativity towards the future.

Thank you very much for your attention.