On 17 December 2010, the Japanese government produced a new National Defense Program Guideline (NDPG). Japan’s defense objectives consists of the defense of Japan, regional security and stability and world peace and human security, and its defense policy will move beyond its traditional defense concept, the “Basic Defense Force Concept” (Kibanteki Boeiryoku Koso). This was based on the 1976 National Defense Policy Outline to emphasize deterrence by defense capabilities and to defend Japan from outside invasion with the “minimum” defense capability to prevent a regional power vacuum. It reinvents the concept, “Dynamic Defense Force” (Doteki Boeiryoku), to manage different threats in the evolving international security environment.
How will the 2010 NDPG change Japan’s defense policy, and what impact will it have on Japan-India security cooperation? First, the change is subtle, yet it makes Japan’s defense policy move forward. Basically, the 2010 NDPG maintains its central defense policy of exclusively “defensive defense policy” (Senshu Boei) under the Japanese constitution, effective civilian control, and three non-nuclear principles, in order not to become a military power that threatens other states. The difference that the 2010 NDPG has made is that it would flexibly change its defense force structure and contribute towards improving the evolving international security environment by proactively participating in international activities, thereby managing non-traditional security issues and defense of the global commons.
Meanwhile, Japan still faces traditional security threats. Considering China’s increased naval capability and political assertiveness on disputed islands, including the Senkaku islands and the South China Sea, the 2010 NDPG also points out the need to deploy the Ground Self-Defense Force on its western islands, which is currently vulnerable to military encroachment. However, Japan’s basic defense posture has not yet changed: it attempts to emphasize the increasing efficiency of its defense capability and thus manage these issues not by increasing its overall defense capability but by strengthening its specific defense capability. With stagnant economic growth and a decreasing military budget since 2002, the emphasis on efficiency is imperative.
Second, the importance of expanding its strategic partnership with other regional states is more emphasized. While the 2005 NDPG did not mention security ties with other states except the United States, the 2010 NDPG aims to strengthen ties with South Korea, Australia, India and the ASEAN member states. In fact, this policy emphasis is compatible with the evolution of the US “hub-and-spoke” model in East Asia in the post-Cold War era, from its focus on deterrence and defense of its allies from Soviet threats.
The US is currently restructuring its East Asian security architecture, as illustrated by such diplomatic and defense partnerships as the 2006 US-Japan-Australia Trilateral Strategic Dialogue (TSD) and the 2010 US-ROK military exercises with Japan as an observer. Although the nature of these security partnerships is basically geared toward non-traditional security cooperation, its implications also affect traditional security perspectives, especially China.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that the US, Japan and other American allies are moving towards a “soft-containment” of China. Despite its uncertainty, the 2010 NDPG explicitly points out that China has played a greater political and security role in East Asia and the world. Consequently, maintaining a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” (Senryakuteki Gokei Kankei), puts an emphasis on expanding and deepening security dialogues and exchanges as confidence-building measures and enhancing security cooperation in such fields as non-traditional security. Seeking also common interests with China, the 2010 NDPG is thus an extension of the current hedging policy.
Third, the 2010 NDPG attempts to improve information and policy coordination capabilities through the establishment of a policy-coordination body, a Japanese version of the National Security Council, in the Prime Minister’s office that provides recommendations to the Prime Minister. In addition, there is a call to increase intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.
In this context, the impact of the 2010 NDPG on Japan-India security relations is modest, yet as the second characteristics implies, the bilateral relations are likely to progress in 2011. This is because the strengthening of Japan-India security relations has already been under way, especially since 2006, when both the Japanese and Indian governments decided to regularize Prime Minister level exchanges each year with a wide security agenda. This included maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, and counter-piracy. After adopting the 2009 Action Plan to Security Cooperation, Japan and India have undertaken joint cooperative activities, including the first 2+2 (Foreign and Defense Ministers) meeting, produced the Joint Statement Vision for Japan-India Strategic and Global Partnership in the Next Decade and Joint Statement on the Advancement of the Strategic and Global Partnership between Japan and India.
Furthermore, Japan, India and the US are now considering the establishment of a trilateral strategic dialogue in the first half of 2011. This would aim at enhancing policy coordination and information exchanges and if realized, it would become the second TSD after the Japan-US-Australia TSD. A challenge is the management of China’s security perception in terms of the expansion of Japan’s security linkage with regional states such as Australia, India, and South Korea. Political and diplomatic interaction with China to send clear signals would become necessary.