Defense Minister's Remarks

Instructions by the Minister of Defense at the Commencement Ceremony of the National Defense Academy of Japan (March 23, 2008)

March 23, 2008.

(Provisional Translation)

   On this occasion of the commencement ceremony at the National Defense Academy with the presence of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the Commander in Chief of the Self-Defense Forces, I would like to express my sincere congratulations to all graduates of the undergraduate departments and the Graduate School of Science and Engineering and the Graduate School of Security Studies of the National Defense Academy of Japan.

   Many of the graduating cadets will subsequently join the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) upon taking an oath of service, which centers primarily on your commitment to "meeting the expectations of the Japanese people by striving to complete duties which may involve risking your own lives when facing challenges." There are a number of occupations to choose from in Japan, and each deserves esteem in its own right. But I firmly believe that the SDF officer is the noblest occupation, since the officer is committed to "completing duties which may involve risking his or her own life" and "to safeguarding the independence and peace of the nation."
   Our nation does not have military law noted for extreme harshness or the court martial process that exists in many other nations. Japan's independence and peace rest on the very oath you are about to take. Those of you who are joining the Self-Defense Forces upon oath should reflect on the weight your oath will carry. And I believe it is the responsibility of the nation to reward it with sincerity.
   Seven years have elapsed since 9/11, and five years from the outbreak of the Iraq War. Terrorist acts negate, in an outright manner, democracy, respect for human rights, freedom of thought, speech and religion, and other values Japan, along with many other nations, upholds as fundamental values. Terrorism is absolutely impermissible because unlike wars between nations, terrorists set off a chain of terror by repeated attacks on vulnerable people in an attempt to accomplish their own goals.
   In the fight against terrorism, punishment does not necessarily serve as an effective deterrent. Terrorists tend to be in hiding among noncombatant civilians and it is difficult to tell if their attacks have come to a complete end. In some ways, the fight against terrorism offers challenges far more difficult than ordinary wars. You also have to address the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery such as missiles. The seriousness of the situation we face today stems from the compounded effects of these factors. All of us must be unequivocally aware of this.
   Furthermore, a number of traditional, conventional structures remain intact in Northeastern Asia, unlike Europe. There are more issues that you will have to address as SDF officers ? much more than the issues faced by the officers during the Cold War era.
   The oath of service will include an oath to not engage oneself in political activities. I have said this over and over again but let me repeat it one more time. The term "non-engagement in political activities" means that you are not permitted to dominate the political arena by leveraging unparalleled armed forces; it does not mean that you cannot voice political opinions. "Doing one's very best within the scope of the given authority and within the means of your given equipment" should not be used as your excuse. If the Government, which is in a position to grant authority and supply equipment to the Self-Defense Forces, does not know what the Self-Defense Forces can do and cannot do, how can it exert effective deterrence? Or, how can it engage in appropriate diplomacy? And what needs to be done in terms of authority and equipment in order to attain more effective deterrence capability? You will know the answer more than anyone else when the lives of your subordinates are entrusted to you and you are placed on duty on the frontline.
   As Prime Minister Fukuda just told you, the Self-Defense Forces have been regarded very highly in Japan and overseas. On the other hand, the occurrence of a variety of incidents associated with the SDF has been reported in Japan. Where does this gap come from? You should not forget that it is the right and duty of SDF officers to express opinions on politics, since these opinions do serve the nation's interest as it attempts to establish proper civilian control and to transform the Self-Defense Forces into new organizations trusted by its people.
   In the past, Japan engaged itself in a war against the Allied Powers, which included the United States and the United Kingdom, by instilling its people with a eulogized ideology of the Japanese spirit without informing its people of the true power of Japan and the Allies, and ended up in a disaster as a result. In my opinion, that war should have been avoided no matter what means were needed, and both politics and the military had to take unspeakably heavy responsibility for leading the nation into the war. This is one example in which the malfunctioning of what is known today as "civilian control" was very apparent, and this took place only 70 years ago. Since the defeat, Japan has never faced squarely with the essence of national security with the military at the core. The future is always an extension of the past and those who do not learn history always repeat past mistakes.
   Prime Minister Viscount Palmerston of the United Kingdom once reportedly proclaimed: "We have no permanent allies and we have no permanent enemies. We only have permanent interests." The Japan-U.S. alliance, which is part of Japan's foundations, should never be taken for granted. Rather, it has been sustained with continuous and persistent efforts. I strongly hope you will read the number of works written by Dr. Makoto Iokibe, the Academy's President, including Nichibei Senso to Sengo Nihon (Japan-US War and Post-War Japan), works by Mr. Naoki Inose such as Kuuki to Senso (Mood and War), and Taiheiyo Senso; Nihon no Haiin (Pacific War; Causes of Japan's Defeat), which is part of the Kadokawa Bunko series.
   I hope that those of you from foreign countries will fully utilize what you have learned at the Academy for the benefit of your home countries. I strongly hope that you will serve as the bridge between your home country ? be it India, the Republic of Indonesia, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Romania, the Kingdom of Thailand or the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ? and Japan and help us work shoulder to shoulder for the establishment of peace in the international community.
   Even if you decide not to join the Self-Defense Forces for any reason, I hope that you will maximize what you have learned here at the Academy in all of your future endeavors in life. Peace cannot be created simply by politics and the Self-Defense Forces alone. What is crucial is the awareness of each and every citizen, and this is why I place high hopes on you.
   We all live at an important juncture of the present era, whether we like it or not. Therefore, let me propose that all of us who are here today unite our hearts and work together for the creation of a new, great history.

   Before concluding my instructions, let me express my deepest respect to Dr. Makoto Iokibe, the President of the National Defense Academy, and the faculty of the Academy who dedicated themselves to the education of the graduates, and I leave you now with congratulations to the parents of the graduates.