Japan's 2004 National Defense Program Guideline: A case study for the effects of globalization on national security

Philip Shetler-Jones, University of Sheffield

21.Oct.2009 17.00 - 18.30
HRI Conference Room, HRI Institute, Gell Street, University of Sheffield - Sheffield


For most of the post-war period, Japan shied away from military operations and kept its Self-Defense Forces (SDF) at home. As its economy started to internationalize in the 1980s, as part of their Cold War defensive role, they started to venture a little further afield in the region and in the 1990s they participated in peacekeeping operations (PKO). However, in 2004 Japan's security policy formally went global when the National Defense Program Outline declared that 'international peace cooperation activities' (which includes anti-terror operations as well as PKO) would be made a 'main mission' for the SDF, alongside national defense.

The reason for this change, according to the 2004 policy, was that globalization (in the form of interdependence, arms proliferation and international terror), has transformed the international security environment in such a way as to make national security indivisible from international security. As a recent report says: 'since it is not possible to build walls between people, making the whole world peaceful is essential for the security of one country'.

So the old geographical limits on the SDF are gone, but is that really because of globalization? The reform of Japan's defense policy to enable the 'normal' use of the military on the international stage also happens to be a long cherished objective of certain groups in Japan. For much of the post-war period they were opposed, largely successfully, by those who believe the best way for Japan to avoid war is to keep its forces at home on the defensive. Now, partly thanks to the logic of globalization, the 'normalizers' seem to have got their way.

So this leaves the question: how much of this change in Japan's security policy can be traced to the effects of globalization, and how much is globalization just being used to justify a long-held dream of releasing Japanese security policy from post-war restrictions?

To find out, I have analysed the generic effects of globalization on security, and compared these with the reforms in Japan since the late 1980s. The results of this comparison suggest that globalization has affected Japan's security policy, but these effects are weak when compared with the claims of the 2004 policy. Rather it seems that the strongest role globalization has had in Japan's changing security policy may be as a weapon in a rhetorical battle.


Philip Shetler-Jones (philipshetlerjones@yahoo.com ) is presently a White Rose East Asia Centre scholar, pursuing an MPhil at the School of East Asian Studies (SEAS), University of Sheffield. Prior to this, he was employed as a political affairs officer in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Philip has an MA in Advanced Japanese Studies from the University of Sheffield, and an MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School, Tufts University (Boston, USA). Philip also has professional experience in an humanitarian NGO as well as the UK military. His proposed PhD topic is on the effects of contemporary globalization on security, with a special focus on Japan's post Cold-War security policy.