Speech by H. E. Mr. Shigeru Ishiba, Minister of Defense

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Speech by H. E. Mr. Shigeru Ishiba, Minister of Defense At the 7th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, on 31 May 2008 “The Future of East Asian Security”

Professor Heisbourg, Dr Chipman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I’m back here after an interval of four years, and it is my great honor and pleasure to speak to all of you about the security challenges of this region.

First, I wish to express my deep sympathy and condolences to the people of Myanmar hit by the cyclone and to the people of China devastated by the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province. I would like to reiterate that our country, in cooperation with other nations, is always ready to assist both countries as much as we can.

[East Asia in the Cold War]

Today, I was given a topic, “The Future of East Asian Security.” Let me elaborate my ideas on important points of relevance for the future of the security in this region.

“Diversity” is the key word for this region. In the region, we find many ethnic groups, various religions, different state systems and large economic gaps. Unlike Europe, there are many island states and territorial disputes still exist. Every part of these “diversities” could become a cause of conflicts.

During the Cold War, though there was the Third World, the world was roughly divided into two: the Western bloc led by the United States, and the Eastern bloc led by the Soviet Union. East Asia was not an exception. Both the United States and the Soviet Union held destructive nuclear weapons that could have led to the extinction of mankind once the two blocs had started a total war. This “Balance of Terror” kept factors of potential conflicts from our sight. Thus, the Cold War was a peculiar “Age without full-scale War.” It was neither morally correct nor appropriate to call it an “Age of Peace.”

After the end of the Cold War, some people thought an age of peace would finally come. Soon, however, those factors, which had been concealed during the Cold War, came to the surface.

Like World War I and II, it could be said that the Cold War also changed the notion of “war” itself. Karl von Clausewitz wrote “War is merely a continuation of politics by using military power.” In spite of this maxim, it has become difficult to use military power as a tool to realize national policies. The essence of contemporary military power has become more focused on “deterrence” rather than just being a tool for national policies.

[Post 9.11 World]

I want to mention terrorism, a new threat emerging in the world after the Cold War.

Furthermore, the 9.11 terrorist attacks marked the beginning of an extremely difficult age where terrorists or terrorist groups can cause massive destruction, which could only be inflicted by states in the past. Deterrence by punishment does not work against terrorists and their groups. The UN system is also not effective, as terrorist groups are not sovereign states. 9.11 raised a significant challenge: is the present system, with the UN at its core, aiming at “settling international disputes,” continuing to work effectively?

One of the significant features of terrorism is “total rejection of democracy.” In 1995, a large-scale terrorist attack by the fanatic religious group “Aum Shinrikyo” took place in Japan and many people were killed and injured. Although not well known, the group members in fact established a political party a few years before the attack, and many senior ranking members ran for national elections to realize their beliefs through democracy. All of them lost in the elections. They couldn’t realize their beliefs through democracy. Even if they wanted to realize their beliefs by force, it was obvious that by no means they could counter National Police or the Self-Defense Forces. Confronting this situation, they chose the act of terrorism to attack the vulnerable, innocent citizens, and to spread the chain of terror and destruct society.

“Nobody knew when, where, to whom, by whom or how attacks would occur.” “Nobody knows when it begins and ends.” We are in the midst of a long, extremely difficult fight against terrorism.

We must resolutely stand up against any action that denies the principles which we uphold: democracy, respect for fundamental human rights, freedom of religion and belief, freedom of speech. Since the essence of terrorism is to make “a chain of terror and to weaken the state and social system,” needless to say, the solid determination of every man and woman to “never surrender to terrorism” is indeed necessary.

We must survive in “an era where conflict factors of the post-Cold War come up to the surface” and “an era of a long and difficult fight against terrorism.” To do so, we need to consolidate multi-layered efforts by the international community. I would like to clarify what kind of roles Japan could play in this regard.

[Review of Balance of Power]

Next, let me speak of the significance of the balance of power in today’s changing security environment.

I do not intend to deny a Wilsonian idealism paradigm, represented by US President Woodrow Wilson who once said that confrontation of national interests can be settled through rational discussion at the League of Nations and by strengthening international law. On the other hand, I think a realism paradigm such as “balance of power is effective for conflict prevention, as there is no universal government or police” is extremely relevant as well.

Speaking of the stability of East Asia, continuous effort to review whether or not a balance of power is effectively working in this region is necessary. In reviewing the function of balance of power, we must remind ourselves that various aspects such as capabilities, legal system, treaties, and operational concepts need to be carefully examined, and thus mutual understanding and exchanges among the countries in this region is essential.

[Rise of China]

I will touch upon the important role of China for the future of East Asian Security.

We have witnessed the increased importance of China, politically, economically, militarily and a drastic change for the security of East Asia and the future of the world.

I fully recognize the difficulties China faces in governing a country, where the world’s largest population lives, where so many ethnic groups exist and which shares boundaries with many countries. I hope China continues to enjoy stable development and will contribute with its huge potential to the stability of the region and the world peace. Japan does not subscribe to purposely overstating China as a threat. At the same time, we would like to urge China to further enhance the transparency of its military capabilities and their purpose.

In this context, we hope the development of dialogues with neighboring countries on security and other issues will be further facilitated.

[Strengthening the Reliability of the Japan-US Security Alliance, Right of Collective Defense]

Next, I will elaborate our thoughts on strengthening Japan-US Security Alliance and Japan’s role, and synergy between Japan-US Security Alliance and Japan’s Asian Diplomacy.

The Japan-US Security Alliance, between the largest and the second largest economic powers, has become one of the most solid alliances in the world. Besides the military significance of the alliance, it should be seen as a regional public good, and as being in a broader context than merely a bilateral alliance. Bilateral efforts to tackle regional challenges by the United States with its increasing military presence and Japan with further determination and capabilities, could contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

The former prime minister of the UK Henry John Temple Palmerston was right when he said “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” The national interests of Japan and the United States significantly overlap and that is why our alliance has been upheld. The core mission of the alliance remains to be the “stability of East Asia.”

As many of you know, Japan-US Security Alliance is said to be an “asymmetrical bilateral relationship.” Simply put, the US has an obligation to defend Japan while Japan can not defend the US as it can not exercise right of collective self-defense due to its interpretation of its own Constitution. Meanwhile, Japan has an obligation to provide bases in Japan for the US Forces serving the maintenance of peace and stability of the Far East. This is a very special type of alliance in the world.

In Japan, some people strongly believe the following: that it is immoral that “while Japan seeks assistance from other countries when it is attacked, Japan does nothing to protect foreign countries when they are under attack.” They say that Japan won’t gain the trust from other countries. They go on to say that that is why Japan needs to pave the way to enable itself to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

At present, the Government of Japan plans neither to amend its Constitution nor change its interpretation. Were this issue to be discussed in the Diet in the future, the following elements should be strictly defined: what prerequisites are for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense and how the Diet should engage itself in the decision making process, so that we should not by any means, let an act of invasion take place, in the name of right of collective self-defense. Before that, it is essential that the Japanese people living in this century accurately understand the grief and bitterness which Japan left to the people of Asia and win the trust of Asian people beforehand.

A debate we often hear in Japan is whether to strengthen the Japan-US Security Alliance or to put more emphasis on Asian diplomacy. Even back in the Meiji Era, which covered the late 19th century to the beginning of 20th century, whether Japan should “Quit Asia” or should “Join Asia” was a hot debate. This debate, however, is based on a wrong setting. Strengthening of the reliance of the Alliance and Asian diplomacy are not exclusive to each other. These two can be achieved simultaneously. Achieving these two simultaneously is the path Japan, whose identity overlaps both Asia and Western democracy, should pursue. Japan wishes to play a role to promote open and inclusive cooperation in this region where diversified cultures co-exist.

From this perspective, we should proactively engage in the Global Posture Review of the US Forces and work with the US to maintain the overall balance of power in this region.

[Nuclear Policy of Japan]

Next, let me share with you the question I’ve been asked frequently by people from abroad.

When North Korea carried out a nuclear test the year before last, some insisted that Japan should also possess nuclear weapons. Japan, however, does not have any plan whatsoever to become a nuclear power today or in the future.

If Japan, the only nation that suffered from atomic bombings, becomes a possessor of nuclear weapons, it would automatically lead to the collapse of entire NPT regime. I should admit that NPT regime is far from perfect, and that it does entail unfairness. I am convinced, however, that NPT regime offers a better world than a nightmarish one where more nations hold nuclear weapons.

It is NOT nuclear armament that Japan should pursue. Japan should work harder for the non-proliferation of WMD by strengthening the reliability of the nuclear deterrence of the US and by exerting further efforts for continuing Six-Party Talks.

[Prevention of conflicts]

At the same time, it is important to make further efforts to build consensus on measures to prevent conflicts. Between states, needless to say, it is essential to build confidence at all levels. I feel strongly the need to strengthen exchanges not only at a political level but also among service personnel. Because service members can think rationally, the advice of men in uniform to policymakers can be most persuasive when they are against the use of force. At the same time, their advice will be least influential when they are for the use of force. I believe many misunderstanding on threats, or misunderstanding on capabilities of threats, which is a multiple of intention and capabilities, can be cleared up when military personnel, as professionals, fully understand the military capability of other nations.

We must also make our efforts so that freedom of speech can be guaranteed and information disclosure is fully secured in each country.

In the past, Japan started wars against many countries of the world. Soldiers fought bravely for the country. And it lost. In April 1941, eight months before starting the war with the United States, the Japanese government instructed the young elites and made them conduct a study on “What would be the results if we fought with the United States?” These elites came to this conclusion in August of that year: “Japan might be able to win at an early stage, but soon the difference of national powers would make it difficult for Japan to continue the war and Japan would inevitably lose.” But Japanese people were not at all informed about this analysis. On the contrary, a pointless idealism prevailed and Japan ultimately started the war that December.

I don’t necessarily think a democratic state is always peace-loving. Democracy always embraces the risk of accelerating dangerous nationalism. Sufficient disclosure of information and the assurance of freedom of speech are measures to minimize such risks.

[International Peace Cooperation Activities of the Self-Defense Forces]

I will also briefly touch upon international peace cooperation activities of the Self-Defense Forces.

Japan has been following the path of a peaceful state drawing on democracy over the past 60 years following World War II. And the Self-Defense Forces, with the pride of belonging to a peaceful state, have accumulated the experiences of international peace cooperation activities, together with all partner countries. Japan continues its airlift mission in Iraq and its replenishment support activities in the Indian Ocean.

These two activities, however, are based on time-bound legislations. The replenishment support activities in the Indian Ocean will expire in January next year and the airlift mission in Iraq will expire in July next year. The question is raised in Japan: is it appropriate for Japan as a responsible country to legislate ad hoc laws one by one in order to address these new phenomena in the changing environment?

Japan gets a lot of benefits from many countries in this region and around the world, and from safe and secure maritime routes. Japan is therefore responsible for the peace and stability of the world.

In order to fulfill this responsibility, I think we should seriously consider, without prejudice, what Japan should do, what Japan can do or cannot do under the restrictions of the constitution. And we should seriously consider establishing a “general law” for international peace cooperation activities showing a menu for responding proactively to the needs and requirements of the international community. In the deliberations of that legislation, the following points need to be seriously discussed:
- should the requests from the United Nations be regarded as the prerequisite for Japan’s international peace cooperation activities;
- is the menu of the activities limited to humanitarian reconstruction support or logistic support;
- what do we think about the Rules of Engagement;
- how the Diet should be involved in the decision-making.

I will exert my efforts for consolidating the ideas and frameworks for Japan’s activities in order to make substantiate what Prime Minister Fukuda advocates as a “Peace Fostering State,” and to provide a PKO Center to be established in two years as the common goods of the region.

[Organizational Reform]

Let me briefly touch upon the reform of Japanese Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces. The policy framework, organizational structure and equipment system of the Ministry of Defense have never changed. These were optimized to meet the requirements of the missions to defend the homeland in the Cold War structure.
They should be urgently readjusted to meet today’s requirements.

Now, efforts to reform the Ministry of Defense are underway within the Japanese government. The following major objectives are being pursued through further promoting a civilian-and-uniform combined structure:
- where political decision-making can be done swiftly and appropriately;
- programming the most appropriate equipment system in today’s security environment;
- programming a defense posture which enables the Self-Defense Forces to more swiftly engage in international peace cooperation activities together with other countries.

I promise to make the utmost efforts to realize this reform promptly.

[How to Address Terrorism: Enhancement of Regional Deterrence by Denial]

We have to face another challenge: how to address terrorism.

“Poverty and oppression generate terrorism” is a truth in a sense. Terrorism and riots don’t necessarily derive from absolute poverty where the minimal needs of food, clothing and shelter are not met. They rather come from relative poverty; that is, the difference in economic situations between people of a country and people of other countries. Neither the eradication of poverty nor the change of political systems can be easily addressed. Poverty eradication and a substantial change in politics should be further pursued by people’s strenuous efforts. Japan considers mere economic assistance to be not enough; all types of assistance needed should be carried out to assist these difficult endeavors.

If deterrence by punishment is not effective against terrorism, the only alternative we have is to enhance the comprehensive capabilities of deterrence by denial.

Ballistic missile defense system that Japan is developing is one of them. Think about a case in which an entity, on which deterrence by punishment does not work, obtains destructive ballistic missile capability. In order not to surrender to its intimidation, a system to neutralize missile attacks is necessary.

We need to build infrastructure and carry out exercises so that we can evacuate our people with the proper timing and, avoid any human cost. With these efforts, any attacks, or any intimidation will be ultimately ineffectuated. We need to obtain this kind of strong deterrence by denial.

The reinforcement of this deterrence by denial should no longer be realized by a single state. It can be enhanced by regional cooperation. For example, the Republic of Korea has expertise on civil defense, while the infrastructure in Singapore has excellent survivability. I believe the key to further strengthening security cooperation in the region is to enhance deterrence by denial of the entire region, based on each country’s experience and knowledge of regional states.

[Concluding Remarks]

As I said earlier, “diversity” in our region is not just a cause of conflicts.
It is rather a keyword telling us of the potential for the future cooperation.

We know how to harmonize ourselves with nature while respecting “diversity.” We know how important it is to understand and respect history, tradition, culture and religion of each nation. We also know Western values are not the only truth.

These could be a clue to the solutions to all types of threats arising now around the world.

Japan sent Ground Self-Defense Force for the reconstruction assistance to Iraq. Before the dispatch, members of the GSDF learned the religion and culture of Iraq first. They even learned easy phrases of daily conversation. Needless to say, what they could do in a short time was limited. But the attitude to respect history and culture of Iraqi people could greatly contribute to smooth progress of the missions of the Self-Defense Forces. This is not Japan’s unique policy. This is the wisdom of Asia which has gone on without pause from ancient times in this region.

I believe time has come when we can make use of this wisdom of Asia for the peace and stability of the whole world.

To that end, we should find the right words for each one of these unspoken wisdoms and recognize them, and use them to reach out to other regions. I think, all of us gathered here today, should start such actions from ourselves.

Thank you.