Self Defense Forces

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flag Self-Defense Forces
Flag of the Japan Self-Defense Forces.svg
Commander in Chief : Prime Minister Shinzō Abe
Defense Minister: Tarō Kono
Military Commander: Chief of Staff Kōji Yamazaki
Military leadership: Ministry of Defense
Headquarters: Ichigaya, Shinjuku-ku , Tokyo
Military strength
Active soldiers: 247.150
Reservists: 56,100
Conscription: No
Resilient population: 43,729,610 (men and women; ages 15–49)
Eligibility for military service: From the age of 19
Military budget: $ 47.6 billion (2019)
Share of gross domestic product : 1 %

The Self-Defense Forces ( Jap. 自衛隊 , jieitai , English : Self Defense Forces , SDF ) are the armed forces of Japan after the end of World War II and the occupation were built. The armed forces have never been involved in combat operations, but are participating in peacekeeping operations . They represent the eighth largest armed force in the world.

From 2011 Japan changed its strategy to a much more offensive defense structure; At the end of 2018, the defense guidelines were changed so that for the first time the country had weapon systems that could also be used for attacks. It is disputed whether this change in strategy is covered by the Japanese constitution.


From the Meiji Restoration (1868) to the end of the Second World War (1945), Japan was an Empire ( Japanese Empire ) under a Tennō . These 77 years were a time of imperialism and colonialism .

In the context of a crisis in East Asia that had ruled between Japan and China since the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and the formation of the puppet state of Manchukuo , the incident at the Marco Polo Bridge on July 7, 1937 led to the eruption of the Second Japanese Chinese war .

On December 7, 1941 , Japanese planes suddenly raided Pearl Harbor . Soon afterwards the Japanese pressed further south as planned and, under the ideology of Asia, occupied the Asians in European and American colonies such as Hong Kong (→  Japanese occupation of Hong Kong ), the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies . Four months later, Japanese troops controlled all of Southeast Asia and much of the Pacific, with around 450 million people. This was the largest expansion in the history of Japan . In mid-1942, after the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway (in which the Japanese fleet was severely weakened by the loss of four aircraft carriers) the situation changed and US troops could now advance into Japanese-occupied territory.

After the fighting on the Japanese islands of Iwojima and Okinawa , American bombers dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and the second on Nagasaki on August 9 . Six days later, the Tennō announced the surrender on the radio .


Even during the occupation, the United States demanded that Japan contribute to its own defense. Especially from the beginning of the Korean War , the US government pursued a course of gradual rearmament of Japan. In accordance with the Yoshida doctrine , Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru wanted to minimize defense spending at the expense of freedom of action, but when sovereignty was regained in 1952, he agreed to convert the national police reserve created in 1950 ( 警察 予 備 隊 , keisatsu yobitai ) into “security forces” ( 保安 隊 , Hoantai ) too. These were subordinate to the responsible minister in the cabinet via the security authority ( 保安 庁 , Hoan-chō ). In 1954 this was converted into the defense authority and the self-defense forces established according to the mutual defense agreement ( 総 合 防衛 援助 協定 , sōgō bōei enjo kyōtei , Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement ) and the "Law on the Self-Defense Forces" ( 自衛隊 法 , jieitai-hō ).

Yoshida's successor Hatoyama Ichirō pursued as Prime Minister in close coordination with the United States an amendment to the constitution, in particular Article 9, to lift the explicit ban on armed forces. In 1956 he set up an advisory committee for the constitution ( 憲法 調査 会 , kempo chōsakai ) in both chambers of parliament . After he failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the upper house elections in 1956 , the plan failed.

On February 10, 1965, the publication of a secret strategic document of the Self-Defense Forces by the Socialist MP Okada Haruo sparked a scandal, popularly known as Mitsuya Kenkyū ( 三 矢 研究 ; English Three Arrows Study ; officially 昭和 三 十八 年度 総 合 防衛 図 上研究 , Shōwa 38-nendo sōgō bōei zujō kenkyū ), became known. In the event of a renewed Korean War , the plan included an American-Japanese-South Korean-Taiwanese alliance within which Japan would act defensively but provide extensive economic and logistical support for the allies. This included the patrol of the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan , the stationing of American nuclear weapons in Japan and the switch to the war economy . It became apparent from the document that in order to effectively implement this plan, the military sought an authoritarian form of government. Prime Minister Satō Eisaku denied the existence of the plan, but later acknowledged and defended it. Since the vast majority of the population and no civilian institution supported the comparatively small, gradual rearmament of Japan almost twenty years after the end of the war, Mitsuya Kenkyū appeared as an undemocratic attempt at overthrowing the military and a risky revival of pre-war militarism .

Public support increased from the 1970s, among other things because in 1976, under the director general of the security agency Sakata Michita, a budget limit of 1% of the gross national product and a policy of a general arms export ban (→  Three principles of arms exports ) began. Under the increasing pressure from the USA and other Western nations that Japan should become more involved in the international military, an extensive modernization program for the armed forces began under Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro in 1986, in which the 1% limit was temporarily lifted. To improve public opinion, the armed forces were involved in infrastructure projects near the bases, such as the construction of new roads, irrigation systems, schools and noise protection measures for those living near the air base.

According to a law passed in both chambers of parliament on January 9, 2007, the defense authority ( Bōei-chō ) was raised by the Japanese government to the rank of Ministry of Defense ( Bōei-shō ). This was accompanied by an expansion of the powers of the authority and the responsible minister, including greater independence from parliament when it comes to sending troops. This was justified with the increased international importance of Japan, the international deployments of the self-defense forces and the special political conditions in the region. The last Minister of Defense and First Minister of Defense was Fumio Kyūma .

Since 2011, Japan has been steadily increasing its defense budget. For the 2018 budget, the cabinet decided to spend 41 billion euros on defense. It is planned to spend a total of 211 billion euros on military structures by 2023.

Japan activated the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade on April 7, 2018, the first naval unit since World War II. She is trained to counter invaders from the occupation of Japanese islands .



For decades, Japanese society as a collective has been under the impression of the Second World War , lost as an empire , which gained a traumatic quality for Japan through the American atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki . Since then, society and politics have endeavored to continue the country's orientation towards peace, which it adopted after the end of the war. Due to the geostrategic location of Japan close to Russia and the People's Republic of China , this was and remains only possible to a limited extent, especially at the expense of the presence of major American associations .

Constitutional framework

The strongly pacifist attitude of society is expressed above all in the constitution of Japan , which is divided into eleven chapters. The first chapter contains eight articles and is dedicated to the emperor as a symbol of state unity. The second chapter is entitled "Defection from War " and includes only the ninth article of the constitution .

Japan is thus prohibited from setting up a military or resolving international conflicts through violence, although there has been a broad public discussion since about 2000 about the possibility of removing the article from the constitution. The interpretation of the article itself is also controversial, but is interpreted to mean that armed forces are legitimate for self-defense. However, the Self-Defense Forces have limited equipment , mainly designed for a functioning national defense . There are no long-range attack options, such as medium or long-range missiles , long-range bombers , tankers , combat swimmers or rules of engagement . The US military is primarily responsible for offensive military operations. Japan had the fourth largest military budget in 2007 with around 50 billion US dollars (after the USA, China and Great Britain ). Half the money is spent on personnel costs, the rest is divided into care, new purchase and upgrade of weapons on.

Defense strategy

The country's basic military doctrine , which was adopted on May 20, 1957 by the first Kishi cabinet together with the National Defense Council - the forerunner of today's Security Council -, the de facto General Staff , called Basic Policies for National Defense , follows seamlessly the peace imperative of the constitution and already builds on the further interpretation that military self-defense is permitted. The aim of national defense policy is to prevent both direct and indirect aggression against Japan in order to preserve the country's peace, which is based on democracy.

To this end, four guidelines are recommended to policy-makers:

  1. Orientation towards international peace , which is best achieved in cooperation with the United Nations ;
  2. “Stabilizing the people's livelihoods ” and cultivating patriotism to establish the basis of national defense;
  3. Gradual development of defense capabilities, based on the current strength of Japan and the current political situation, as long as it exists in the context of self-defense;
  4. Dealing with military dangers and aggression within the framework of the agreements with the United States (→  Treaty on Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States ) and the United Nations in order to avert existing dangers and contain future ones .

The Basic Policies for National Defense have been revised in successor documents over time. The current National Defense Program Outline was approved by parliament in 2004 and replaced the 1994 version of the document of the same name. The new version primarily takes account of the threat posed by international terrorism .

The close integration with the US armed forces in the region is a central element of the Japanese military strategy. A US - aircraft carriers , 180 combat aircraft and 21,000 Marines are stationed permanently in Japan. Both the People's Republic of China and North Korea are increasingly viewed as a potential military threat. The revision of the Defense Guidelines in December 2004 is in this context. It now allows Japan, among other things, to participate in the US missile defense program and to equip its own air force with tanker planes. Japan also wants to become more involved in international military operations. Since 1999, PATRIOT PAC-3 systems are also supposed to protect Japan from possible Chinese and North Korean missiles. For this purpose, the US stationed the missile defense system on Okinawa and, from 2007, in Saitama .

Daily politics

Depending on the task of the armed forces and the sensitivities of the population, the Japanese expression ( gun , English "army", "army"), which indicates a military force, or the expressions " military ", "army", "marine" and "Air Force" or "Air Force" never officially used in connection with the Self-Defense Forces.

The body responsible for defense policy (formerly the Security Council, now the Ministry of Defense), in collaboration with think tanks, publishes a defense white paper that is updated almost annually . The Department of Defense also publishes the National Defense Program Guidelines about every five years.

Armed forces

The Self-Defense Forces have the three classic armed forces, the Army , Navy and Air Force, which are subordinate to the newly established Ministry of Defense. They have a total of 240,812 men. Due to Japan's island location, the strategic primacy lies on the navy, although it is the smallest of the three armed forces.

Ground forces

The Ground Self-Defense Forces (GSDF) are the de facto army of Japan and with 148,302 soldiers represent the largest of the three armed forces. As a ground force, they fit into the concept of self-defense primarily through their primary use to combat enemy landing operations . This task is made more difficult by the mountainous character of Japan, the long coastlines and the large number of islands, especially with regard to the transfer of troops. That is why the Japanese army doctrine provides for the protection of important centers and communication routes as well as the delaying defense until American reinforcements arrive. Troop movement by helicopter plays a major role .

Naval forces

The Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) are the most important armed forces, although they only have 44,528 men. This is explained by the fact that in a naval force, especially offensive equipment has a lot of personnel. Particular emphasis is placed on defense against submarines and enemy air forces.

Air Force

The Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) are with 45,913 man similar personal strong as the Navy. Its 280 combat aircraft are primarily multi-purpose combat aircraft and interceptors supported by close radar surveillance of the airspace.

Assignments abroad

A Japanese C-130 Hercules in Iraq 2008
JDS Tokiwa (AOE 423) as a supply ship for the USS Decatur

The first foreign deployment of the self-defense forces took place under the mandate of the UN in 1992. The troops were sent to Cambodia to oversee the first free elections there. As early as 1991, after the Second Gulf War , the marine self-defense forces dispatched mine clearers to the Persian Gulf in the wangan no yoake sakusen ( 湾 夜 の 夜 明 け 作 戦 , English Operation Gulf Dawn ).

The first foreign deployment without a mandate from the United Nations took place in 2004 in the Iraq war . A public debate was sparked in Japan by allegations that the Self-Defense Forces indirectly participated in the war in Iraq by refueling the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk . The government decided that the Japanese troops in Iraq were withdrawn completely by the end of 2008.

Under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2001, the marine self-defense forces also participated in Operation Enduring Freedom with refueling vessels in the Indian Ocean . The opposition in the House of Lords prevented the law from being extended, and the mission had to end on October 31, 2007. The government achieved an extension of the law by a two-thirds majority in the lower house and a resumption of the operation in January 2008. The new anti-terrorism law and the operation ended in January 2010.

Kaketsuke Keigo - Right to collective self-defense

In March 2016, the Cabinet under Prime Minister Abe passed a law enabling foreign missions on an "expanded basis". In response to urgent calls from the United Nations or non-governmental organizations, the Japanese armed forces are now allowed to rush in (which is referred to by the Japanese term “kaketsuke”) and provide armed support (Japanese “keigo”). Specifically, for example, bases may be defended by allies. Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga named the main purpose of this new policy as the possibility of saving Japanese citizens. The composition of the terms - "Kaketsuke Keigo" - is used literally for this legislation.

Thus the central paragraphs of the 9th constitutional article, 1 and 2, are interpreted in a contentious way:

  1. "On the threat or use of violence as a means of resolving international disputes"
  2. “In order to achieve the goal of the previous paragraph, no land, sea, air or other means of war are maintained. A right of the state to wage war is not recognized. "

Shinzo Abe argued that “more active international engagement embedded in international institutions” would be in the interests of the state.


Web links

Commons : Japan Self Defense Force  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  2. Armament: Japan's pacifism goes on the offensive. Retrieved December 22, 2018 .
  3. Billions in spending - armament in Japan. Accessed December 22, 2018 (German).
  4. Matsueda, Tsukasa; Moore, George E .; Japan's Shifting Attitudes toward the Military: Mitsuya Kenkyu and the Self-Defense Force , in: Asian Survey , Vol. 7, No. 9, September 1967, pp. 614-617
  5. Ronald E. Dolan: National Security . In: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress (Ed.): Japan: A Country Study . 1994, Section: Place in National Life ( Online ).
  6. 防衛 省 設置 法 ( Memento from March 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) ( Bōei-shō setchi-hō ; "Law establishing the Ministry of Defense")
  7. ^ Japanese Ministry of Defense: The Defense Agency's Transition to the Ministry of Defense , in: Japan Defense Focus , No. 4, 2007.
  8. Japan upgrades its defense agency. In: BBC News . January 9, 2007, accessed May 5, 2010 .
  9. ^ Education, defense bills passed. Opposition no-confidence motions fail to halt floor vote. In: Japan Times . December 16, 2006, accessed May 5, 2010 .
  10. Armament: Japan's pacifism goes on the offensive. Retrieved December 22, 2018 .
  11. ^ Nobuhiro Kubo, Tim Kelly: Japan activates first marines since WW2 to bolster defenses against China. April 7, 2018. Reuters . Retrieved August 2, 2018.
  12. Basis of Defense Policy ( Memento September 14, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) on the Japanese Ministry of Defense website, accessed June 29, 2007.
  13. National Defense Program Guidelines on the Japan Ministry of Defense website
  14. a b c d Authorized and Actual Numbers of Self-Defense Personnel . Japan Ministry of Defense figures as of March 30, 2006. ( Memento of July 6, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Found on June 27, 2007.
  15. 湾 岸 の 夜 明 け 作 戦 ( Memento from December 29, 2011 in the Internet Archive ), Ministry of Defense, MSDF (Japanese; PDF; 516 kB), History (English)
  16. MSDF fuel was used in Iraq, group charges . In: The Japan Times , September 21, 2007, accessed December 16, 2007
  17. Defense Agency admits indirectly fueling Kitty Hawk before war ( memento of July 8, 2012 in the web archive ), Kyodo News, May 13, 2003
  18. see also any case politically important decision of the Supreme Court Nagoya on 17 April 2008 ( Japanese ; Google translation ) that the Iraq mission partly to Article 9 of the Constitution. Repudiated
  19. Use of Japanese Fuel Provided to Operation Enduring Freedom . ( Memento of May 27, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) In:
  20. ^ Ayako Mie: Abe's Cabinet approves more muscular SDF peacekeeping role . In: Japan Times , November 15, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016.
  21. Dirk Eckert: First combat deployment of Japanese soldiers in South Sudan . In: Telepolis , November 18, 2016, accessed November 18, 2016.