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Chicago Shimpo
Mt. Fuji Delegations Speak about Japan’s New Roles

• Four members of the Mount Fuji Dialogue Delegation spoke about “Japan’s New Role in The 21st Century” at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago on April 30, and the event was hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
• The four were Shinichi Kitaoka, President of the International University of Japan; Satoshi Morimoto, former Minister of Defense of Japan; Seiji Maehara, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation; and Isamu Ueda, a member of the House of Representatives.
• The Mount Fuji Dialogue Delegation was established last year to have more dialogues between the U.S. and Japan in a bipartisan approach.

• Shinichi Kitaoka, also chair of the council on the legal restructuring of Japan’s national defense policy, spoke about recent development of security policies in Japan.

• The Government of Japan adapted new national security strategies, which enabled Japan’s Self Defense Force (SDF) to have more proactive contributions to peace in a framework of international cooperation.
• Japan started a peace-keeping operation in 1992; however, SDF’s activities were very limited by the legalistic mentality in Japan. Therefore, changes of existing laws were called for. The new security strategies will be discussed in spring diet sessions held in May.

• Japan’s Government changed the policy of exporting weapons in April of last year. The old policy prohibited Japan from exporting weapons with some exceptions, and didn’t allow Japan to help other countries which were threatened by big powers and needed assistance, including money and weapons.
• Kitaoka said, “Why shouldn’t we join production of weapons with peace loving democratic countries like the U.S., U.K., and European countries?”
• The change of the policy defined export as defense equipment rather than weapons.

• Why is Japan very cautious about SDF operations or regulating use of weapons? Kitaoka explained about Japan’s Constitution Article 9.
• It has two clauses. One is that no international dispute should be solved by military forces, and Japan has strictly kept it.
• The second part has a problem. It states that Japan shall not have any army, navy, air force, or any war potential. Kitaoka said, “It is ridiculous for a sovereign country.” After the Korean War ended, Japan’s government reinterpreted the second half of the Article 9, so that Japan could possess a minimum level of defense capability as a sovereign country.
• However, the second part of the Article has still affected Japanese people’s mentality. Kitaoka said, “Japanese people tend to think that peace should be maintained by peaceful means only. We should avoid anything military as far as possible.”
• This tendency was a reason why SDF’s operations were very limited. It can fight within Japan’s territory only after Japan is attacked. It is banned from helping other countries even if they are attacked. Kitaoka said, “This is not an effective way to contribute to the stability and peace in a region.” So P.M. Abe’s administration is trying to revise the existing laws or establishing new laws.
• Kitaoka added saying, “Our aim is not to focus on the hard power, but on soft power. The essence is the rule of law.”

• Former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, now a professor at Takushoku University, said that the 19th century was the century of imperialism and colonization, the 20th century had major wars, while simultaneously the international community made a significant progress in establishing the body of international law. Fifteen years have passed in the 21st century, and some nations have changed the status quo of the international order by use of force or through military interventions.

• He spoke about China’s expanding influence in the East and South China Sea, the Pacific Ocean to the east, and starting to construct two new Silk Roads to the west. For example, China has insisted on a 9-dot line and 9-dash line as its territory and made it into a polder from the sea, which belonged to the Philippines. The Philippines brought the issue to the United Nations, and Japan has supported their claim.
• The new Silk Roads are called “one-belt, one road”, which includes the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.

• Morimoto said that implementation of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, which were agreed to on April 27, was very important and encouraged both countries to contribute to develop security cooperation plans for capacity building measures improving ASEAN. In addition, U.S. Japan, and Australia should work together to promote collective ability to address global concerns and regional stability through trilateral exercise.
• He also said that encouraging China to contribute to the stability of Asia Pacific region was the key and most essential theme for the US-Japan alliance.

• Seiji Maehara, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation, belongs to an opposition party. He said that change of administration had occurred two times in his tenure as a House Representative, but the US-Japan relation was always placed in the center of foreign diplomacy and security.

• He also said that the order of the international community has been challenged by Islamic State and China’s expanding influence, and Japan had to firmly deal with those issues; thus, he would spare no bipartisan effort to solve them.

• House Representative Isamu Ueda is a member of a discussion group on review and development of security legislation. He outlined the amendment of national security laws. He mentioned two factors about why Japan was changing the laws. One was the change of environment surrounding Japan due to the shift of power balance in the region, which was caused by technological innovations and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Another was instability, such as terrorism and interruptions of free transportation, which could have substantial influence on the security in Japan.

• Before engaging in the amendment of the laws, Ueda stated that the most important principle was maintaining policies under the Constitution that strictly limited the use of military force.
• Some points of amendment were:

• Clarifying authority of the SDF to use weapons in order to protect U.S. forces against unexpected attacks when U.S. forces are engaging in activities contributing to security of Japan.

• Expanding the areas of participation in international peacekeeping activities. The wider scope of activity includes maintaining waterways, and protecting local citizens and refugees.

• Condition of the use of weapons would be relaxed, so that SDF could participate in wider range of activities.

• Japan would be allowed to exercise collective Self Defense. The change enables SDF to cooperate with U.S. forces from normal to emergency situations that strengthen the deterrence provided by the Japan-U.S. alliance.

• The delegation members were asked how Japanese people reacted to the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, which were agreed to on April 27, and Kitaoka answered the question.
• He said that the guidelines haven’t been submitted to the diet, and he believed that Abe’s administration was able to persuade opposition parties because of the changing security environment around Japan.
• On the other hand media and TV commentators in Japan were critical because the essence of the guidelines hasn’t been explained yet. Nikkei Shimbun was supportive, but Asahi, Yomiuri, and Mainichi Shimbun were negative. In general, people were also negative because they thought that the citizens would be involved in a war. Kitaoka said that some time was needed to persuade them.

• Why are media so negative? Kitaoka answered Chicago Shimpo’s question saying, “They believe that opposing the government is a right thing, and it has become a long-time tradition. In Japan’s diet, it had been a custom that minority parties opposed everything from the major party until 15 years ago. Thus, media believe that they have to oppose the government. It’s too much. You have to understand that if media criticize the government excessively, China and North Korea would benefit from it. I believe that they don’t think enough about it.”


Mount Fuji Delegations in Chicago

Shinichi Kitaoka


Satoshi Morimoto

Seiji Maehara


Isamu Ueda