The Japan Self-Defense Forces (自衛隊 Jieitai), or JSDF, occasionally referred to as JSF, JDF, or SDF, are the unified military forces of Japan that were established in 1954, and are controlled by the Ministry of Defense. In recent years they have been engaged in international peacekeeping operations including UN peacekeeping. Recent tensions, particularly with North Korea, have reignited the debate over the status of the JSDF and its relation to Japanese society. New military guidelines, announced in December 2010, will direct the JSDF away from its Cold War focus on the former Soviet Union to a focus on China, especially regarding the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, while increasing cooperation with the United States, South Korea, Australia and India.
Deprived of any military capability after being defeated by the Allies in World War II and signing a surrender agreement presented by General Douglas MacArthur in 1945, Japan had only the U.S. occupation forces and a minor domestic police force on which to rely for security. Rising Cold War tensions in Europe and Asia, coupled with leftist-inspired strikes and demonstrations in Japan, prompted some conservative leaders to question the unilateral renunciation of all military capabilities. These sentiments were intensified in 1950 as occupation troops began to be moved to the Korean War (1950–53) theater. This left Japan virtually defenseless, vulnerable, and very much aware of the need to enter into a mutual defense relationship with the United States to guarantee the nation's external security. Encouraged by the American occupation authorities, the Japanese government in July 1950 authorized the establishment of a National Police Reserve (警察予備隊 Keisatsu-yobitai), consisting of 75,000 men equipped with light infantry weapons.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, United States forces stationed in Japan were to deal with external aggression against Japan while Japanese ground and maritime forces would deal with internal threats and natural disasters. Accordingly, in mid-1952, the National Police Reserve was expanded to 110,000 men and named the National Safety Forces. The Coastal Safety Force, which had been organized in 1950 as a waterborne counterpart to the National Police Reserve, was transferred with it to the National Safety Agency to constitute an embryonic navy.
On July 1, 1954, the National Security Board was reorganized as the Defense Agency, and the National Security Force was reorganized afterwards as the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Army), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Navy) and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (de facto post-war Japanese Air Force), with General Keizō Hayashi appointed as the first Chairman of Joint Staff Council—professional head of the three branches. The enabling legislation for this was the 1954 Self-Defense Forces Act (Act No. 165 of 1954).
The Far East Air Force, U.S. Air Force, announced on 6 January 1955, that 85 aircraft would be turned over to the fledgling Japanese air force on about 15 January, the first equipment of the new force.
Although possession of nuclear weapons is not explicitly forbidden in the constitution, Japan, as the only nation to have experienced the devastation of nuclear attacks, expressed early its abhorrence of nuclear arms and its determination never to acquire them. The Atomic Energy Basic Law of 1956 limits research, development, and use of nuclear power to peaceful uses only. Beginning in 1956, national policy embodied "three non-nuclear principles"—forbidding the nation to possess or manufacture nuclear weapons or to allow them to be introduced into its territories. In 1976 Japan ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (adopted by the United Nations Security Council in 1968) and reiterated its intention never to "develop, use, or allow the transportation of nuclear weapons through its territory". Nonetheless, because of its generally high technology level and large number of operating nuclear power plants, Japan is generally considered to be "nuclear capable", i.e., it could develop a usable weapon in a short period if the political situation changed significantly.
On June 8, 2006, the Cabinet of Japan endorsed a bill elevating the Defense Agency (防衛庁) under the Cabinet Office to full-fledged cabinet-level Ministry of Defense (防衛省). This was passed by the National Diet in December 2006, and has been enforced since January 9, 2007.
The trauma of the last war had produced strong pacifist sentiments among the nation. In addition, under Article 9 of the United States–written 1947 constitution, Japan forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes and declares that Japan will never again maintain "land, sea, or air forces or other war potential." Later cabinets interpreted these provisions as not denying the nation the inherent right to self-defense and, with the encouragement of the United States, developed the JSDF step by step.
In September 2015, the Japanese Diet enacted the 2015 Japanese military legislation, a series of laws that allows them to defend other allies in case of war being declared upon them, including that the Self-Defense Forces may provide material support to allies engaged in combat internationally. The justification is that by not defending/supporting an ally, it would weaken alliances and endanger Japan.
In May 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Abe set a 2020 deadline for revising the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, a clause in the national Constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state.
The Prime Minister is the commander-in-chief of the Japan Self Defense Forces. Military authority runs from the Prime Minister to the cabinet-level Minister of Defense of the Japanese Ministry of Defense.A
The Prime Minister and Minister of Defense are advised by the Chief of Staff, Joint Staff (統合幕僚長 Tōgō Bakuryō-chō) (currently Katsutoshi Kawano), who heads the Joint Staff (統合幕僚監部 Tōgō Bakuryō Kanbu). The Joint Staff includes a Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of Staff, Joint Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff, Joint Staff (currently Kōichi Isobe), an Administrative Vice Chief of Staff, as well as numerous departments and special staffs. Each service branch is headed by their respective Chiefs of Staff; the Chief of Staff of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) (currently Kiyofumi Iwata), the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) (currently Tomohisa Takei), and the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) (currently Haruhiko Kataoka).
The Chief of Staff, Joint Staff, a four star Admiral or General, is the highest-ranking military officer in the Japan Self-Defense Forces, and is the head of the Operational Authority over the Japan Self-Defense Forces, executing orders of the Minister of Defense with directions from the Prime Minister. The Chief of Staff, Joint Staff supervises the service branches operations, and would assume command in the event of a war, but his or her powers are limited to policy formation and defense coordination during peacetime.
The chain of Operational Authority runs from the Chief of Staff, Joint Staff to the Commanders of the several Operational Commands. Each service branches Chiefs of Staff (JGSDF, JMSDF, JASDF) have administrative control over their own services.
On December 4, 2013, the National Security Council was established, with the aim of establishing a forum which will undertake strategic discussions under the Prime Minister on a regular basis and as necessary on various national security issues and exercising a strong political leadership.
On December 17, 2013, National Security Strategy was adopted by Cabinet decision. NSS sets the basic orientation of diplomatic and defense policies related to national security. NSS presents the content of the policy of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" in a concrete manner and promotes better understanding of Japan's national security policy.
In 1976, then Prime Minister Miki Takeo announced defense spending should be maintained within 1% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP), a ceiling that was observed until 1986. As of 2005, Japan's military budget was maintained at about 3% of the national budget; about half is spent on personnel costs, while the rest is for weapons programs, maintenance and operating costs. As of 2014, Japan is in the list of top ten largest defense budgets in the world by expenditure, spending about one percent of GDP.
After the North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1 satellite launching in August 1998, which some regarded as a ballistic missile test, the Japanese government decided to participate in the American anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense program. In August 1999, Japan, Germany and the US governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding of joint research and development on the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System. In 2003, the Japanese government decided to deploy three types of ABM system, air defense vehicles, sea-based Aegis and land-based PAC-3 ABM.
The four Kongō class Aegis destroyers of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force were modified to accommodate the ABM operational capability. On December 17, 2007, JS Kongō successfully shot down a mock ballistic missile by its SM-3 Block IA, off the coast of Hawaii. The first PAC-3 (upgraded version of the MIM-104 Patriot) firing test by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force was carried out in New Mexico on September 17, 2008. PAC-3 units are deployed in 6 bases near metropolises, including Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Misawa and Okinawa.
JSDF soldiers are trained in the military self-defense art of toshu kakuto (徒手格闘), developed in 1952 by Major Chiba Sansu from a synthesis of jujutsu, karate, aikijujutsu, boxing and wrestling. The techniques of toshu kakuto are simplified and direct, to allow for their application whilst in combat dress and carrying field kit. There is an emphasis on the rapid transmission of maximum force in strikes, and for this reason toshu kakuto eschews the fully rotated punches and instep kicks of most karate forms in favour of vertical thrust punches and straight heel kicks.
The outer outline specified quotas of personnel and equipment for each force that were deemed necessary to meet its tasks. Particular elements of each force's mission were also identified. The JGSDF was to defend against ground invasion and threats to internal security, be able to deploy to any part of the nation, and protect the bases of all three services of the Self-Defense Forces. The JMSDF was to meet invasion by sea, sweep mines, patrol and survey the surrounding waters, and guard and defend coastal waters, ports, bays, and major straits. The JASDF was to render aircraft and missile interceptor capability, provide support fighter units for maritime and ground operations, supply air reconnaissance and air transport for all forces, and maintain airborne and stationary early warning units.
The JSDF disaster relief role is defined in Article 83 of the Self-Defense Forces Law of 1954, requiring units to respond to calls for assistance from prefectural governors to aid in fire fighting, earthquake disasters, searches for missing persons, rescues, and reinforcement of embankments and levees in the event of flooding. The JSDF has not been used in police actions, nor is it likely to be assigned any internal security tasks in the future.
In late June/early July 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet agreed to lift the long-term ban in engaging Japanese troops abroad, since the end of the Second World War, in a bid to strengthen the Japanese situation amid an ever-growing Chinese military aggression and North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Japan had adhered to the "pacifist" article 9 of the constitution, but would revise and might reinterpret it in order for this to take effect.
In June 1992, the National Diet passed a UN Peacekeeping Cooperation Law which permitted the JSDF to participate in UN medical, refugee repatriation, logistical support, infrastructural reconstruction, election-monitoring, and policing operations under strictly limited conditions.
The non-combatant participation of the JSDF in the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) in conjunction with Japanese diplomatic efforts contributed to the successful implementation of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords for Cambodia.
|Deployment||Start date||End date||JSDF numbers||Comments|
|Mozambique||May 1993||?||35||United Nations Operation in Mozambique|
|East Timor||February 2002||June 2004||680||engineering unit as part of United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor|
|Iraq||2004||2006||600||deployment of troops to Iraq|
|Nepal||March 2007||January 2011||6||ceasefire observers between government and communist rebels|
|South Sudan||12 December 2016||ongoing||350||ceasefire observers and security|
In 2004, the Japanese government ordered a deployment of troops to Iraq at the behest of the United States: A contingent of the Japan Self-Defense Forces was sent in order to assist the U.S.-led Reconstruction of Iraq. This controversial deployment marked a significant turning point in Japan's history, as it is the first time since the end of World War II that Japan sent troops abroad except for a few minor UN peacekeeping deployments. Public opinion regarding this deployment was sharply divided, especially given that Japan's military is constitutionally structured as solely a self-defense force, and operating in Iraq seemed at best tenuously connected to that mission. The Koizumi administration, however, decided to send troops to respond to a request from the US. Even though they deployed with their weapons, because of constitutional restraints, the troops were protected by Japanese Special Forces troops and Australian units. The Japanese soldiers were there purely for humanitarian and reconstruction work, and were prohibited from opening fire on Iraqi insurgents unless they were fired on first. Japanese forces withdrew from Iraq in 2006.
Japan provided logistics units for the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force Zone, which supervises the buffer zone in the Golan Heights, monitors Israeli and Syrian military activities, and assists local civilians.
In the aftermath of an earthquake in Haiti, Japan deployed a contingent of troops, including engineers with bulldozers and heavy machinery, to assist the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. Their duties were peacekeeping, removal of rubble, and the reconstruction of roads and buildings. Japanese forces are frequent among the international disaster relief teams, with deployments in Rwanda (1994), Honduras (1998), Turkey (1999), West Timor (1999-2000),Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Iran (2003-2004), Thailand (2004-2005), Indonesia (2005), Russia (2005), Pakistan (2005), Indonesia (2006), Indonesia (2009), Haiti (2010), Pakistan (2010), New Zealand (2011).
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force deployed a force off the coast of Somalia to protect Japanese ships from Somali Pirates. The force consists of two destroyers (manned by approximately 400 sailors), patrol helicopters, speedboats, eight officers of the Japan Coast Guard to collect criminal evidence and handle piracy suspects, a force of commandos from the elite Special Boarding Unit, and P-3 Orion patrol aircraft in the Gulf of Aden. On 19 June 2009, the Japanese Parliament finally passed an anti-piracy bill, which allows their force to protect non Japanese vessels. In May 2010, Japan announced it intended to build a permanent naval base in Djibouti to provide security for Japanese ships against Somali pirates. Construction of the JSDF Counter-Piracy Facility in Djibouti commenced in July 2010, completed in June 2011 and opened on 1 July 2011. Initially, the base was to house approximately 170 JSDF personnel and include administrative, housing, medical, kitchen/dining, and recreational facilities as well as an aircraft maintenance hangar and parking apron. The base now houses approximately 200 personnel and two P-3C aircraft.
In a recent press release, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura had stated that discussions with Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba and Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura were taking place regarding the possibility of creating a permanent law for JSDF forces to be deployed in peacekeeping missions outside Japan. The adoption of a permanent peacekeeping law has been considered by the government, according to the Mainichi Daily News.
In light of tensions over the Senkaku Islands, Japan is in the process of creating the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade. This unit will be designed to conduct amphibious operations and to recover any Japanese islands taken by an adversary.
The arm of service to which members of the ground force are attached is indicated by branch insignia and piping of distinctive colors: for infantry, red; artillery, yellow; armor, orange; engineers, violet; ordnance, light green; medical, green; army aviation, light blue; signals, blue; quartermaster, brown; transportation, dark violet; airborne, white; and others, dark blue. The cap badge insignia the JGSDF is a sakura cherry blossom bordered with two ivy branches underneath, and a single chevron centered on the bottom between the bases of the branches; the JMSDF cap badge insignia consists of a fouled anchor underneath a cherry blossom bordered on the sides and bottom by ivy vines; and the JASDF cap badge insignia features a heraldic eagle under which is a star and crescent, which is bordered underneath with stylized wings.
There are nine officer ranks in the active JSDF, along with a warrant officer rank, five NCO ranks, and three enlisted ranks. The highest NCO rank, first sergeant (senior chief petty officer in the JMSDF and senior master sergeant in the JASDF), was established in 1980 to provide more promotion opportunities and shorter terms of service as sergeant first class, chief petty officer, or master sergeant. Under the earlier system, the average NCO was promoted only twice in approximately thirty years of service and remained at the top rank for almost ten years.
The total strength of the JSDF is 247,154 in 2016. In addition, the JSDF maintained a total of 47,900 reservists attached to the three services. Even when Japan's active and reserve components are combined, however, the country maintains a lower ratio of military personnel to its population than does any member nation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Of the major Asian nations, only India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand keep a lower ratio of personnel in arms, although because India and Indonesia have much larger populations, they have larger numbers of personnel.
The JSDF is an all-volunteer force. Conscription per se is not forbidden by law, but many citizens consider Article 18 of the constitution, which prohibits involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime, as a legal prohibition of any form of conscription. Even in the absence of so strict an interpretation, however, a military draft appears politically impossible.
JSDF uniformed personnel are recruited as private, E-1, seaman recruit, and airman basic for a fixed term. Ground forces recruits normally enlist for two years; those seeking training in technical specialties enlist for three. Naval and air recruits normally enlist for three years. Officer candidates, students in the National Defense Academy and National Defense Medical College, and candidate enlist students in technical schools are enrolled for an indefinite period. The National Defense Academy and enlisted technical schools usually require an enrollment of four years, and the National Defense Medical College require six years.
When the JSDF was originally formed, women were recruited exclusively for the nursing services. Opportunities were expanded somewhat when women were permitted to join the JGSDF communication service in 1967 and the JMSDF and JASDF communication services in 1974. By 1991, more than 6,000 women were in the JSDF, about 80% of service areas, except those requiring direct exposure to combat, were open to them. The National Defense Medical College graduated its first class with women in March 1991, and the National Defense Academy began admitting women in FY 1992.
In the face of some continued post–World War II public apathy or antipathy toward the armed services, the JSDF has difficulties in recruiting personnel. The JSDF has to compete for qualified personnel with well-paying industries, and most enlistees are "persuaded" volunteers who sign up after solicitation from recruiters. Predominantly rural prefectures supply military enlistees far beyond the proportions of their populations. In areas such as southern Kyushu and northern Hokkaido, where employment opportunities are limited, recruiters are welcomed and supported by the citizens.
Because the forces are all volunteer and legally civilian, members can resign at any time, and retention is a problem. Many enlistees are lured away by the prospects of high paying civilian jobs, and Defense Agency officials complain of private industries luring away their personnel. The agency attempts to stop these practices by threats of sanctions for offending firms that hold defense contracts and by private agreements with major industrial firms. Given the nation's labor shortage, however, the problem is likely to continue.
Some older officers, although not old enough to have participated in the Second World War, consider the members of the modern forces unequal to personnel of the former Imperial Army and Imperial Navy. Literacy is universal, and school training is extensive. Personnel are trained in the martial arts, such as judo and kendo, and physical standards are strict. Graduates of the top universities rarely enter the armed forces, and applicants to the National Defense Academy are generally considered to be on the level of those who apply to second-rank local universities.
General conditions of military life are not such that a career in the JSDF seems an attractive alternative to one in private industry or the bureaucracy. The conditions of service provide less dignity, prestige, and comfort than they had before the Second World War, when militarism was at a high point and military leaders were considered influential in not only military affairs but virtually all aspects of society. For most members of the defense establishment, military life offers less status than does a civilian occupation with a major corporation.
As special civil servants, JSDF personnel are paid according to civilian pay scales that do not always discriminate between ranks. At times, JSDF salaries are greater for subordinates than for commanding officers; senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) with long service can earn more than newly promoted colonels. Pay raises are not included in Defense Agency budgets and cannot be established by military planners. Retirement ages for officers below general/flag rank range from fifty-three to fifty-five years, and from fifty to fifty-three for enlisted personnel. Limits are sometimes extended because of personnel shortages. In the late 1980s, the Defense Agency, concerned about the difficulty of finding appropriate post retirement employment for these early retirees, began providing vocational training for enlisted personnel about to retire and transferring them to units close to the place where they intend to retire. Beginning in October 1987, the Self-Defense Forces Job Placement Association provided free job placement and reemployment support for retired JSDF personnel. Retirees also receive pensions immediately upon retirement, some ten years earlier than most civil service personnel. Financing the retirement system promises to be a problem of increasing scope in the 1990s, with the aging of the population.
JSDF personnel benefits are not comparable to such benefits for active-duty military personnel in other major industrialized nations. Health care is provided at the JSDF Central Hospital, fourteen regional hospitals, and 165 clinics in military facilities and on board ship, but the health care only covers physical examinations and the treatment of illness and injury suffered in the course of duty. There are no commissary or exchange privileges. Housing is often substandard, and military appropriations for facilities maintenance often focus on appeasing civilian communities near bases rather than on improving on-base facilities.
The JSDF sent six small-scale squadrons to the Persian Gulf on April 26, 1991, and approved the June 1994 UN Peacekeeping Activity (Parliamentary Peacekeeping) Cooperation bill in the House of Representatives in Japan. From September 11, Self-Defense Forces have started overseas activities such as dispatching UN peacekeepers to Cambodia.In 2003, Japan created a law to deal with armed attacks, amend the Self-Defense Forceslaw. In 2004, Japan dispatched for two and a half years to the Samawa district of southern Iraq under the Special Measures for Iraqi Recovery Support Act. in 2005
Appreciation of the JSDF continued to grow in the 1980s, with over half of the respondents in a 1988 survey voicing an interest in the JSDF and over 76% indicating that they were favourably impressed. Although the majority (63.5%) of respondents were aware that the primary purpose of the JSDF was maintenance of national security, an even greater number (77%) saw disaster relief as the most useful JSDF function. The JSDF therefore continued to devote much of its time and resources to disaster relief and other civic action. Between 1984 and 1988, at the request of prefectural governors, the JSDF assisted in approximately 3,100 disaster relief operations, involving about 138,000 personnel, 16,000 vehicles, 5,300 aircraft, and 120 ships and small craft. In addition, the JSDF participated in earthquake disaster prevention operations and disposed of a large quantity of World War II explosive ordnance, especially in Okinawa Prefecture. The forces also participated in public works projects, cooperated in managing athletic events, took part in annual Antarctic expeditions, and conducted aerial surveys to report on ice conditions for fishermen and on geographic formations for construction projects. Especially sensitive to maintaining harmonious relations with communities close to defense bases, the JSDF built new roads, irrigation networks, and schools in those areas. Soundproofing was installed in homes and public buildings near airfields.
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