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Japanese Self-Defense Forces

Page history last edited by Bestow 6 years, 9 months ago

     The Japan Self-Defense Forces, or JSDF, are the currently unified military  forces of Japan. Until the past two decades the JSDF has been confined to the islands of Japan and not permitted to be deployed abroad. In recent years they have been engaged in international peacekeeping operations. Current tensions, namely due to North Korea, have reignited debates over the status of the JSDF and its relation to Japanese society.




The conduct of the Imperial Japanese military forces have had a profound and enduring impact on the nation's attitudes toward wars, armed forces, and military involvement within politics. The trauma of World War II produced strong pacifist sentiments among the nation which were demonstrated by the public's acceptance of not only the total disarmament, demobilization, and purge of all the military leaders from positions of public influence after but also a constitutional ban on any rearmament. Under the United States-composed Constitution of 1947 - Article 9:



(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. (2) To accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.



This forever renounced war as an instrument for settling international disputes and declared that Japan would never again maintain "land, sea, or air forces." However, it would be less than a decade later that the UN would interpret these provisions as not denying the nation the inherent right to self-defense and, with the encouragement/support of the United States, lead to the development of the JSDF.



Oh Snap!

Deprived of all military capabilities after 1946, Japan only had occupation forces and a minor domestic police force on which to rely on for security. This vulnerability was only intensified in 1950 when the majority of occupation troops were transferred to the Korean War theater, leaving Japan very much aware of the need to enter a mutual defense relationship with the United States. Encouraged by the American occupation authorities, the Japanese government in July 1950 authorized the establishment of a National Police Reserve, consisting of 75,000 men equipped with light infantry weapons.


Under the terms of the Mutual Security Assistance Pact(c. 1952) : United States forces stationed in Japan were to deal with external aggression against Japan while all Japanese forces would deal with internal threats and natural disasters. Accordingly, by the end of 1952 the National Police Reserve had been expanded to 110,000 men and renamed the National Safety Forces.


In order to avoid the appearance of a militarism revival, Japan's political leaders emphasized constitutional guarantees ofcivilian control over the government and armed forces. In addition, there was the intentional use of nonmilitary terms to describe the organization and function of these forces. The forces' administrative department was only granted an agency status, rather than a full-fledged ministry status. The armed forces were designated the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF), and the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF), instead of the army, navy, and air force. In theory, these were not armed forces, but merely extensions of the Police Force.


   Tanks were called "Special Vehicles"




Although the possession of nuclear weapons is not explicitly forbidden in the constitution, Japan expressed early on its abhorrence of nuclear arms and its determination to never acquire them. The Atomic Energy Basic Law of 1956 limits research, development, and utilization of nuclear power for peaceful uses only. In 1976 Japan ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and reiterated its intention to never "develop, use, or allow the transportation of nuclear weapons through its territory."



Contemporary Standings

  • Active Personal - 239,430 (Ranked 28th)

  • Maintains a lower ratio of military personnel to population than any member nation of NATO

  • Considering Asian nations, only India and Indonesia keep a lower ratio of personnel in arms

  • Military Expenditures - $48.8 Billion (1% of GDP)

  • An all-volunteer force; Conscription/Drafting is illegal

  • All members are legally civilian and can resign at any time



Recent Development

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, and policing operations under strictly limited conditions. Accordingly, in May 1993, the JSDF deployed fifty-three peacekeepers to Mozambique to assist in a United Nations Operation. This was the first time JSDF had been allowed to operate internationally.


In 2004, the Japanese government dispatched troops to Iraq at the behest of the United States. A portion of the Japan Self-Defense Forces was sent in order to assist with the Reconstruction of Iraq. This controversial deployment marked a significant turning point in Japan's history as it was the first time since the end of World War II that Japan sent actual troops abroad. Public opinion regarding this deployment was sharply divided, specifically due to the fact Japan's military is constitutionally structured to be solely a self-defense force, which operating in Iraq is difficult to justify under such terms. Although though they deployed with their weapons, constitutional restraints required the troops to be protected by Australian and British units. The Japanese soldiers were there purely for humanitarian and reconstruction work, and thus prohibited from engaging Iraqi insurgents unless they were fired upon first. All Japanese forces withdrew from Iraq by the end of 2006.


On December 15, 2006 Japan passed a bill regarding the transition of the Japan Defense Agency to the Ministry of Defense. On January 9, 2007, 53 years after the establishment of the Defense Agency in 1954, the Ministry of Defense was resurrected.

With this transition, the Minister of State for Defense has become the Minister of Defense and has been empowered to react more rapidly and accurately to diverse emergency situations as the exclusive minister in charge of national defense. In addition, "international peace cooperation activities" have been upgraded to primary missions of the Self-Defense Forces. This also opened the door for rewriting the constitution to allow Japan to have a Military again in name.



Sign On The Doted Line!!

 The JSDF has to compete for qualified personnel with well-paying industries, and thus has difficulties in recruiting personnel. Many enlistees are lured away by the prospects of highly paying civilian jobs, and Defense Agency officials complain of private industries looting their personnel. Predominantly rural prefectures supply military enlistees far beyond the proportions of their populations. In areas where employment opportunities are limited, recruiters are welcomed and supported by the citizens. On the contrast, little success or cooperation is encountered in urban centers such as Tokyo and Osaka. 

General conditions of military life are not persuasive enough for a career in the JSDF to be an attractive alternative to one in private industry or bureaucracy. The conditions of service provide less dignity, prestige, and comfort than they had prior to World War II when military leaders were considered influential. Personnel benefits are not comparable to the benefits of active-duty military personnel in other major industrialized nations. Health care is provided by JSDF but it only covers physical examinations and the treatment of illness and injury suffered in the course of duty. 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









See Also:

Japanese Military Reforms


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