From management crisis to crisis management? Japan’s post-2012 institutional reforms and Sino-Japanese crisis (In)stability - CWP Alumni Adam Liff & Andrew Erickson

Tuesday, Apr 25, 2017
by dsuchens

Abstract: Since 2012, China’s assertion of its sovereignty claim to the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has significantly raised the risk of a potentially escalatory political-military crisis with Japan. As circumstances worsen, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has championed major institutional reforms aimed at centralizing Japanese security policy decision-making and vastly improving crisis management. This article assesses these reforms’ significance for ameliorating Japan’s long-standing internal crisis management weaknesses, and enhancing its ability to communicate with Beijing promptly under challenging conditions. While significant issues remain, recent developments – especially the establishment of Japan’s first-ever National Security Council – demonstrate significant progress. Bilaterally, however, important firebreaks remain conspicuously absent.

KEYWORDS: Japancrisis managementsecurityNational Security CouncilChina

Since September 2012, China’s employment of military and paramilitary forces to challenge Japan’s decades-old administrative control of the Senkaku (Chinese: Diaoyu) Islands has introduced significant uncertainty and risk into the most volatile flashpoint between the world’s second and third largest economies. Under this ‘new normal,’ China’s civil maritime and air forces, backed by navy and air force power, provocatively assert Beijing’s sovereignty claim. The stakes are high: conflict – even unintended – between China and Japan (with its US ally) over the uninhabited islands could be catastrophic. It would involve the world’s three largest economies and be disastrous for regional and global stability, as well as the world economy.

Despite these manifest costs, and the fact that neither Beijing nor Tokyo wants conflict, the post-2012 operational status quo has significantly increased the possibility of even an unintended miscalculation or incident. Especially in a potentially volatile domestic political context, a subsequent political-military crisis could escalate if not managed rapidly and effectively. History provides particularly sobering lessons regarding the escalation risks in territorial disputes, however ill-advised on material grounds. A vast political science literature demonstrates that disputes over territory are the primary cause of most modern wars.11 Toft, Monica, ‘Territory and War,’ Journal of Peace Research 51/2 (2014), 185–198.View all notesDuring remarks on bilateral tensions at the 2014 World Economic Forum, the Japanese prime minister’s (PM) ominous reference to strong economic ties failing to prevent war in 1914 made global headlines.22 Reuters, ‘Abe Sees World War One Echoes in Japan-China tensions,’ 23 January 2014.View all notes

Specific to the East China Sea (ECS), global commentators and political and military leaders from both sides have warned of escalation risks, wisely calling for enhanced crisis management to ensure robust firebreaks and fail-safes. In this context, operational realities, especially given deepening regional tensions, power shifts, and North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities, have rendered the maturity of Japan’s internal crisis management institutions, and the degree to which Tokyo and Beijing are capable of managing a crisis effectively, important policy concerns to all interested in East Asian peace and stability. This is especially true for Washington – Japan’s sole security ally and China’s top trading partner.

Remarkably, however, how capable the two sides are of actually managing a possible crisis remains a crucial, yet rarely engaged question. This study offers the first systematic assessment of post-2012 developments regarding Japan’s internal and external crisis management capabilities most relevant to the ECS. It complements recent scholarship examining China’s side of the ledger,33 Alastair Iain Johnston, ‘The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis-Management Theory and Practice in China,’ Naval War College Review 69/1 (2016), 29–72; Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, ‘Installing a Safety on the “Loaded Gun”? China’s Institutional Reforms, National Security Commission and Sino-Japanese Crisis (In)Stability,’ Journal of Contemporary China 25/98 (2016), 197–215.View all notes and provides extensive assessment of recent institutional reforms, especially the impact of Japan’s new National Security Council (JNSC).

Not coincidentally, a dynamic environment in Tokyo means the time is ripe for reexamination of Japanese institutions and practices. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to the Kantei in December 2012. This was only 3 months after his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) predecessor’s decision to have the Japanese government purchase the islands from private Japanese citizens (so-called ‘nationalization’ of the islands), which Beijing had seized upon as a rationale for its own increasingly assertive behavior. Building on the work of his predecessors, Abe has subsequently accelerated and championed new institutional and other reforms designed to directly address long-standing issues with Japan’s security policy- and crisis management-relevant institutions. Chief among these: the 2013 establishment of Japan’s first-ever NSC. Its creation reflects and occurs concomitantly with Abe’s centralization of security decision-making in the executive branch, itself a manifestation of a long-term trend of institutional and security policy reforms driven by external national security challenges (China; North Korea) and deepening US pressure; all enabled by shifting domestic political winds. Externally, Abe’s administration has also pursued negotiations with Beijing on the establishment of robust bilateral crisis management hotlines to serve as diplomatic firebreaks.

Beyond policy relevance, the issues examined herein also have important implications for academic literatures on East Asian international relations, comparative politics, Sino-Japanese relations, and Japanese politics and foreign policy. In assessing the drivers and significance of recent developments, this article draws primarily on newly available Japanese Government and think tank documents, analyses, and interviews with knowledgeable interlocutors in Tokyo, Washington, and Beijing. It also builds on a small but important English-language scholarly literature on Japan’s crisis management.44 James L. Schoff, Crisis Management in Japan & the United States (Dulles VA: Brassey’s 2004Schoff, James L., Crisis Management in Japan & the United States (Dulles, VA: Brassey’s 2004) [Google Scholar]); Richard Bush, The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations (Washington, DC: Brookings 2010Bush, Richard, The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations(Washington, DC: Brookings 2010) [Google Scholar]); Richard J. Samuels, 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan (Ithaca: Cornell UP 2013Samuels, Richard J., 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan (Ithaca: Cornell UP 2013) [Google Scholar]); Special Issue (Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches), Japanese Journal of Political Science, 14/2 (2013Shinoda, Tomohito, ‘DPJ’s Political Leadership in Response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident’, Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 243–59. doi:10.1017/S1468109913000054[CrossRef][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]); Yoichi Funabashi, Japan in Peril? 9 Crisis Scenarios (Hong Kong: CLSA Books 2014Funabashi, Yoichi, Japan in Peril? 9 Crisis Scenarios (Hong Kong: CLSA Books 2014) [Google Scholar]); and Sanaa Yasmin Hafeez, ‘The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises of 2004, 2010, and 2012: A Study of Japanese-Chinese Crisis Management,’ Asia-Pacific Review 22/1 (2015Hafeez, Sanaa Yasmin, ‘The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises of 2004, 2010, and 2012: A Study of Japanese-Chinese Crisis Management’, Asia-Pacific Review 22/1 (2015), 73–99. doi:10.1080/13439006.2015.1038885[Taylor & Francis Online][Google Scholar]), 73–99.View all notes

Motivating the study: mitigating risk

Over the past several years, China’s increasing usage of military and paramilitary forces to assert sweeping sovereignty claims in the South and East China seas (ECSs) has unnerved its neighbors and the United States – an ally/security partner of many. Though since early 2014 the world’s attention has turned to Beijing’s South China Sea activities and the associated international response, circumstances in the waters and airspace surrounding the Senkakus remain operationally and diplomatically unstable. For its part, the US Government has cited an ‘unprecedented rise in risky activity.’55 Daniel Russel, Maritime Disputes in East Asia: Testimony Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, 5 February 2014, http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2014/02/221293.htm.View all notes Washington has a direct interest, not only because of its extensive economic and political ties with Tokyo and Beijing but also because of its treaty commitment to back the former in a possible conflict over the Japan-administered islands.66 New York Times, ‘Obama says pact obliges US to protect Japan in Islands Fight,’ 24 April 2014.View all notes

Operational trends and risky behavior

The contemporary operational reality throws the potential stakes – and risks – into sharp relief. Since the Government of Japan’s (GOJ) ‘nationalization’ of three of the islands in September 2012, China has employed military and paramilitary forces and coercive means in an effort to overturn the decades-old status quo of Japanese administrative control.

At sea, activity in what Japan considers its territorial waters and contiguous zone by China Coast Guard (CCG) vessels has surged.77 Data from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 31 October 2016. http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000170838.pdf,View all notes As CCG has grown into the world’s largest coast guard, its vessels and their capabilities have expanded commensurately. Beijing is recommissioning former navy frigates as white-hulled vessels, while CCG’s newest ships displace as much as 10,000 tons – larger than US Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and dwarfing their Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) counterparts. This is not a purely paranaval competition, however, and action–reaction dynamics are clear. As CCG vessels enter Japan-administered waters, PLA Navy (PLAN) warships sit sentry over-the-horizon. Meanwhile, in the air, as Chinese fighter and other aircraft activity reaches unprecedented levels, so have scrambles of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighters to intercept. Figures for the first half of 2016 (407 JASDF scrambles against Chinese aircraft) indicate a 76% increase over the previous year, itself a record high.88 Ministry of Defense, ‘Statistics on scrambles during the first half of FY2016,’ 14 October 2016.View all notes

Beyond general trend lines, specific incidents provide further grounds for concern. Most notably, in January 2013 Japan reported two incidents of PLAN employment of fire-control radar – the penultimate step in the engagement sequence – against the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). That October, Beijing called Tokyo’s threats to down Chinese drones entering Japanese airspace a potential ‘act of war;’99 Times of India, ‘China warns Japan against shooting down drones over islands,’ 27 October 2013.View all notes later, it expressed interest in employing its rapidly expanding drone fleet to assert its island claim.1010 South China Morning Post, ‘PLA considers drones for island patrols,’ 13 June 2015.View all notes In November 2013, Beijing abruptly declared a controversial ECS Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) notable for its overlap with Japan’s decades-old ADIZ, inclusion of Senkaku airspace, and nature of its implementation. Not coincidentally, recent years have also seen several dangerous fighter jet encounters. The 2001 fatal collision of a Chinese J-8 fighter into a US EP-3 surveillance aircraft in international airspace exemplifies the risks of close encounters by fixed-wing aircraft – which, to stay aloft, must maintain speed, leaving little time for decision-making or collision avoidance measures. Within days of the first-ever entry of a PLAN warship into the island’s contiguous waters in June 2016, there were reports of mock dogfighting occurring near the islands – an unprecedented escalation of risk.1111 Interviewee A, Tokyo, June 2016. For Chinese accusations, see USNI News, ‘Chinese and Japanese Fighters Clash over ECS,’ 5 July 2016. https://news.usni.org/2016/07/05/chinese-japanese-fighters-clash-east-china-sea.View all notes

Beyond the possible ‘real-time’ crisis management challenges owing to operational matters in increasingly crowded waters and airspace surrounding the islands, additional grounds for concern about escalation risks and sustainability of this ‘new normal’ exist:

  • Noxious bilateral political relations, characterized in part by mutual antipathy and mistrust, and irregularity of political or military exchange exacerbating a general lack of personal leadership connections.

  • Domestic politics that may shape leaders’ calculations, especially widespread ‘anti-Japanese nationalism’ within China, which may frustrate efforts to de-escalate.

  • China’s own crisis management weaknesses (summarized below), risk acceptance, and apparent effort to exploit operations and bilateral negotiations to extract a major political concession from Tokyo on the sovereignty issue.

 

Diagnosis: traditional weaknesses in Sino-Japanese crisis management-relevant institutions

Even before the ECS became so unstable, characteristics of China’s and Japan’s crisis management-relevant institutions long provided grounds for concern about the two parties’ ability to rapidly and effectively manage a political-military crisis. Since 2012, the worsened operational picture underscores the importance of understanding these traditional limitations, and examining the extent to which leaders on both sides have addressed them.

In this article, crisis is defined as a subset of the comprehensive typology outlined by Sakaki and Lukner: a man-made, unanticipated event that threatens something valuable, disrupts routine decision-making, and imposes ‘trade-offs and dilemmas … under time pressure and insufficient information.’ ‘Crisis management’ refers to the ‘organizational and political response during the most critical and precarious phase following the onset of a crisis.’1212 Alexandra Sakaki and Kerstin Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches’ Japanese Journal of Political Science, 14/2 (2013), 156–57.View all notes

China

Building on a two-decade-old literature on crisis management in China, recent academic studies reveal persistent weaknesses in China’s internal crisis management capabilities; in particular rapid, effective coordination across Party, government, and military and paramilitary organs.1313 Samantha Hoffman and Peter Mattis, War on the Rocks, ‘Managing the power within: China’s state security commission,’ 18 July 2016, http://warontherocks.com/2016/07/managing-the-power-within-chinas-state-security-commission/; Phillip C. Saunders and Andrew Scobell, eds., PLA Influence on China’s National Security Policymaking (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP 2015).View all notes Internal debates, coupled with several recent reforms, suggest Beijing is increasingly cognizant of these problems and has taken some measures to address them. Yet doubts persist concerning whether recent reforms have significantly ameliorated long-standing, fundamental problems: poor coordination and information sharing, civilian oversight of the military limited to the very highest level, ad hoc decision-making by an unwieldy array of stakeholders, and opaque policy implementation that is slow to delegate authority or empower officials to act or communicate with foreign counterparts.

Case-in-point: one major recent institutional reform – the establishment of China’s new standing Central National Security Commission (CNSC) – appears focused primarily on internal, not external security: domestic stability, antiterrorism, countering threats to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control, and other primarily domestic matters. It remains unclear whether CNSC is adequately staffed or empowered to play a robust convening, coordination, and externally focused decision-making and crisis management role akin to that of a typical NSC under normal conditions – let alone emergencies when theoretical flowcharts might well default to an informal chain of command under an overtaxed Xi as the ‘commander in chief of everything’ and a murky constellation of personally connected advisors who might be poorly suited to offer him a full range of updated information, perspectives, and executable options in real time. Nor is there yet a National Security Advisor representing the paramount organ of executive power – Xi Jinping and the Politburo Standing Committee – with whom foreign counterparts can establish a working relationship in advance, or seek out as a direct pipeline in a crisis, when normal channels may not function properly.1414 Erickson and Liff, ‘Installing a Safety on the “Loaded Gun”?; David M. Lampton, ‘Xi Jinping and the National Security Commission: Policy Coordination and Political Power’ 24/95 (2015), 759–77; Johnston, ‘The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis-Management Theory and Practice in China’; author’s discussions with Chinese military officers and government-affiliated scholars, January 2017.View all notes

Japan

The small existing scholarship assessing Japan’s crisis management capabilities predates both the instability in the ECS and major institutional reforms since Abe’s return to the prime ministership in December 2012, especially establishment of Japan’s first-ever NSC (kokka anzen hosho kaigi). The remainder of this article aims to fill this lacuna by assessing the extent to which these reforms significantly mitigate traditional weaknesses. It begins with an overview of traditional factors weakening Japan’s crisis management.

Due in significant part to historical legacies of Japan’s 1930s–1940s experience and the Allied Occupation following its 1945 defeat, postwar leaders have traditionally faced significant internal obstacles – both institutional and normative – to rapid, effective crisis response. This is especially true as it concerns incidents requiring involvement of Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). Accordingly, Japan has limited experience with military crisis management. Indeed, much of the associated literature has focused on the government’s ability to handle other sorts of crises – ranging from natural disasters to financial crises. Most assessments are critical, while acknowledging incremental progress.1515 For examples, see Special Issue (Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches), Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013); Samuels, 3.11; and Funabashi, Japan in Peril?View all notes

At a basic level, effective management of nonmilitary crises has similar requirements to those necessary for a political-military crisis – rapid response and involvement of key principals, cooperation between politicians and bureaucrats, and robust coordination across the bureaucracies themselves. Nevertheless, military crises often differ in risk intensity, time sensitivity, escalation potential, and imperatives to take rapid, complex, decisive, and possibly lethal kinetic action; potentially vis-à-vis other actor(s) with whom transparent, constructive communication may be difficult or impossible – at least in the short run. Unlike, say, a natural disaster, the latter inherently involve a strategic interaction – necessitating that internal coordination and decision-making and external diplomatic outreach occur concomitantly, expeditiously, and be centered on a strong, decisive executive.

In these regards, Japan’s limited experience and its leaders’ traditional reluctance to capitalize on JSDF expertise in planning and crisis response is particularly noteworthy. Japan’s political system has often deemphasized proactive political leadership on foreign and security affairs, with key aspects heavily shaped by Washington. Meanwhile, its bureaucracy has traditionally been known to dominate elected officials. Even among bureaucrats, interagency stovepiping and ‘turf wars’ are widely recognized. There has also been significant resistance from politicians and bureaucrats to active involvement of uniformed military personnel in decision-making. Collectively, and distinct from discussion of additional military and intelligence capabilities, these institutional characteristics provide clear grounds for concern about the government’s ability to communicate rapidly and effectively internally in a political-military crisis. In contrast to, say, a Cold War-era crisis with Moscow, although Washington today commits to assisting Tokyo in an ECS contingency, it also stresses that Japan is on the front lines and thus primarily responsible for crisis management.

Research and interviews with knowledgeable Japanese officials, military officers, and analysts – many with direct knowledge and first-hand experience vis-à-vis important processes and cases – confirm existing academic studies’ identification of significant and long-standing deficiencies in Japan’s crisis management-relevant institutions. What follows is an overview of key traditional weaknesses in Japan’s internal crisis management.

Decentralized, ad-hoc decision-making; limited executive leadership

Political-military crisis management is a complicated, multi-constituency, time-sensitive affair. Accordingly, efficient, effective formulation and prosecution requires standard operating procedures, clearly prescribed roles for major players, institutionalization of regular interagency coordination, planning, and implementation. For these reasons, a strong executive and centralized decision-making are crucial to rapid and effective interagency information sharing and policy coordination. Alas, not only has Japan traditionally lacked this strong executive but its ministries also have been infamous for balkanization and vigorous competition exacerbated by deep parochial loyalties.1616 For associated literature review, see Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 160–62.View all notes

Effective crisis management depends on a strong, well-informed, proactive executive. Ideally, a ‘buck’ stops with a paramount political leader, upon whom responsibility for a final decision rests, and who issues clear marching orders to relevant politicians, ministries/agencies (including the intelligence community (IC)), and JSDF, and JCG leaders. Slow response, unclear delegation rules, or lack of order clarity increases miscalculation risk.

In Japan, a general political culture of consensus-based decision-making, coupled with deprioritization of foreign and security policy, has traditionally exacerbated structural deficiencies. Especially during the Cold War, focus on economic growth and extraordinary reliance on Washington meant that foreign policy suffered from poor central coordination and oversight. Leading scholars have varyingly referred to Tokyo’s basic approach as ‘reactive,’ ‘minimalist,’ or simply ‘coping,’ and following Washington’s lead through ‘karaoke diplomacy.’1717 Kent Calder, ‘Japanese Foreign Economic Policy Formation: Explaining the Reactive State,’ World Politics 40/4 (1988), 517–41; Gerald L. Curtis, ‘Introduction,’ and Michael Blaker, ‘Evaluating Japanese Diplomatic Performance,’ in Gerald L. Curtis, (ed.), Japan’s Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Coping with Change (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe 1993); Takashi Inoguchi and Purnendra Jain, ‘Beyond Karaoke Diplomacy?’ in Takashi Inoguchi and Purnendra Jain, (eds.), Japan’s Foreign Policy Today: A Reader (New York: Palgrave, 2000), xi–xix.View all notesFor example, for the first seven decades postwar, Japan did not even have an independent, comprehensive National Security Strategy around which to 275orient its foreign policy and crisis management. While scholars disagree on how well this approach has served Japan’s interests, few would have considered Japan generally proactive, rapid, assertive, or adept at managing crises.

Beyond the issue of priorities, Japan’s political leaders and the Cabinet have historically been weak relative to powerful bureaucracies in certain contexts. Especially in the military/security domain, domestic political disincentives further discouraged leaders from ‘rocking the boat.’ Already extremely sensitive territory given widespread resentment of the military’s legacy in Japan’s wartime politics and decision-making, massive riots in the wake of the 1960 revision of the US–Japan Mutual Security Treaty rendered security affairs a third rail of postwar Japanese politics, although incremental reforms have occurred – especially since the late 1970s.1818 For seminal analyses, see Peter J. Katzenstein, Cultural Norms and National Security: Police and Military in Postwar Japan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP 1996); Thomas U. Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1998); Andrew Oros, Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice(Stanford: Stanford UP 2009).View all notesExacerbating these normative headwinds, structural issues abound: turnover among Cabinet ministers is frequent and politicians have had extraordinarily small policy staffs, with few resources available to develop significant foreign policy expertise. Consequently, political leaders relied on the bureaucracy (and Washington) for much foreign policy leadership.1919 Gerald L. Curtis, The Logic of Japanese Politics (New York: Columbia UP 1999), esp. 228–34; Michael J. Green, Japan’s Reluctant Realism: Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power (NY: Palgrave 2003), Ch.2.View all notesLimited proactive engagement has also been another problem. In several past crises, PMs were remarkably disengaged or out of the loop. For example, in February 2001, after being informed that a Japanese training ship was sunk accidentally by a US nuclear submarine, leaving nine people dead, then Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro reportedly continued playing golf. After a major earthquake in 1995, then Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi did not receive the first report for more than an hour.2020 Yomiuri Shimbun, ‘Abe’s Power Play,’ 7 March 2015.View all notes

These factors have historically hamstrung PMs when it came to shaping foreign policy and actively managing or reforming relevant institutions. Even those leaders who did try to lead on sensitive security issues, transform the JSDF’s structure or posture, or push through significant institutional reforms to mitigate existing deficiencies enjoyed limited success, or even faced severe political backlash.

Exacerbating the historically deleterious impact of weak institutionalization of a strong executive has been rapid turnover of key principals responsible for spearheading crisis management and decision-making. After all, even the most perfectly designed institution is only effective to the extent its leaders are experienced, present, engaged, and knowledgeable. Post-Cold War, such characteristics were often lacking. During 1989–2012 Japan had 16 PMs, each with a short-lived tenure averaging 537 days. The exception proves the rule: the proactive, stable prime ministership of Junichiro Koizumi (2001–2006) was instrumental in consolidating Kantei-centered foreign policy leadership and bolstering crisis response, including responses to 9.11 and the Iraq War.2121 Tomohito Shinoda, Koizumi Diplomacy (Seattle: University of Washington Press 2007). Koizumi’s leadership demonstrated the importance of executive leadership in crises. Under Koizumi, a 2004 Senkaku landing by Chinese nationals was handled effectively. In 2010, political instability, a hands-off prime ministerial response, and a Cabinet reorganization during a similar incident arguably significantly exacerbated the crisis, with lasting political and diplomatic consequences for Sino-Japanese relations, the ECS dispute especially. Hafeez, ‘Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises.’View all notes Yet the six weak PMs who followed had average tenures of merely 381 days. Even more frequent turnover among the three other Cabinet officials most relevant to foreign affairs/crisis management/interagency coordination is also debilitating. During 1989–2012, Japan burned through 27 chief cabinet secretaries and 25 ministers for foreign affairs. Between the Japan Defense Agency (JDA)’s 2007 upgrade to a full-fledged ministry and 2012, Japan had ten ministers of defense. Creating additional obstacles to rapid, effective responses, in some cases appointees have not had any particularly deep expertise in their assigned portfolio.

Even the most capable leader may not manage crises effectively if overburdened, distracted, unfamiliar with their assigned portfolio, or simply new to the job and lacking connections to the relevant players within the bureaucracy, to say nothing of their foreign counterparts.

Bureaucratic stovepiping

Absent strong, consistent political oversight, and leadership, Japan’s crisis management has historically been further weakened by internal interagency coordination issues: reflected in bureaucratic stovepiping (tatewari gyosei) and the typically infrequent, inadequate coordination among national security-relevant ministries and agencies.2222 Tatewari gyosei came up repeatedly during research interviews with Japanese and American officials and experts. Directly translated as ‘vertical administration,’ the term refers to vertical segregation and lack of communication and cooperation across ministries and agencies, sometimes active turf wars. For more, see T. J. Pempel, ‘Japanese Strategy under Koizumi,’ in Gilbert Rozman, et al., (eds.), Japanese Strategic Thought Toward Asia (NY: Palgrave 2007), 111–12; Hitoshi Tanaka, Gaiko no Chikara(Tokyo: Nikkei 2009), 226–27; Samuels, 3.11, esp. 8–9, 22–23.View all notes A former official encapsulated Japan’s past modus operandi as ‘not crisis management but management crisis.’2323 Interviewee B, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes

Throughout its postwar history Japan has lacked a robust, standing institution to facilitate interagency coordination among national security-relevant principals, ministries, and agencies. The 1986 Security Council (anzen hosho kaigi; SC) was an attempt to partially address this issue, but proved ineffective, with irregular, infrequent meetings, and ad hoc responses the norm (see NSC section, below). The complicated nature of post-Cold War foreign policy challenges led to increased recognition among key political actors of existing institutions’ deficiencies. Specific to national security, calls even proliferated for Japan to establish a standing, US-style NSC – an organization designed precisely to strengthen executive leadership and overcome these and other obstacles to interagency coordination. Yet existing bureaucracies’ strength and parochialism led them to oppose deeper centralization and the establishment of a strong coordinating body in Kantei. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), in particular, regarded an NSC as a threat to its ‘turf.’2424 Interviewee C, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes Absent a motivated, strong executive able and willing to overcome bureaucratic resistance, a robust NSC proved elusive.

The Kaifu Cabinet’s tortured reaction to the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf crisis illustrates the practical consequences of traditional deficiencies. A postmortem of Japan’s widely criticized policy response ascribes the administration’s ‘ad hoc,’ ‘reactive,’ ‘equivocating,’ and ‘incoherent’ response to domestic factors, first among them a ‘malfunctioning internal crisis management system.’2525 See Courtney Purrington, and A. K., ‘Tokyo’s Policy Responses during the Gulf Crisis’, Asian Survey 31/4 (1991), 307–23.View all notes Japan’s traditional bottom-up ringisei consensus-building approach to policy formulation proved time-consuming and ineffectual, as ‘the Iraqi crisis required a top-down style of decision-making by informed political leaders.’ Yet the PM was ‘weak,’ had been in office only a year, and ‘lacked foreign policy expertise [… and …] a large, independent staff to advise him on security matters,’ leaving him excessively dependent on MoFA bureaucrats. Meanwhile, the debilitating absence of institutionalized interagency cooperation manifested itself in ‘muddled’ decision-making, due significantly to Kaifu’s failure to convene the SC until months after the crisis began. Time constraints in crisis proved the ringisei system ‘dysfunctional’ and forced reliance on ad hoc MoFA task forces. These, in turn, proved ineffective given MoFA’s insufficient engagement of and attention paid to input from other security-relevant institutions, especially JDA and Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), despite its own weakness in independent intelligence gathering and assessment. Accordingly, Kaifu was poorly informed.

Deficiencies in intelligence gathering, assessment, and sharing

Timely and accurate advance and real-time intelligence is crucial for effective crisis response, especially in situations like an ECS incident where the risk of miscalculation may be extremely high. Yet scholars have flagged bureaucratic balkanization andineffective communication with policymakers as major issues across the five members of Japan’s relatively small IC: the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office (CIRO; the chief coordinator directly connected to the PM), Defense Intelligence HQ (in MoD), Intelligence and Analysis Service (in MoFA), Public Security Intelligence Agency, and National Police Agency (NPA).2626 The analysis in this paragraph draws on Yoshiki Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community,’ International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 28/4 (2015), 717–33 and interviews in Tokyo, January 2015 and July 2016.View all notes

The IC itself is widely criticized (outside and within) for internal stovepiping and lack of coordination among member agencies. One former official described agency-specific information hoarding and protection of direct channels to top leaders as egregious. 2727 Interviewee D, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notesInterviews reveal the extent to which views differ concerning the source of the problem. For example, past Directors of Cabinet Intelligence (DCI) have complained in print about MoFA’s and MoD’s refusal to share intelligence, and CIRO’s inability to force them to do so.2828 Ken Kotani, ‘Japan,’ in Robert Dover, (ed.), Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies (Milton Park: Routledge 2014), 205–06.View all notes For their part, some security-focused ministry officials disparage CIRO as a ‘colony’ of the NPA2929 Interviewee E, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes and judge CIRO ‘unqualified’ to take the lead on national security-related intelligence.3030 Interviewee E, Tokyo, August 2016.View all notes Others blame the NPA for inappropriately monopolizing intelligence to preserve its direct line to the PM (overreaching by trying to be ‘both the FBI and CIA of Japan’).3131 Interviewee F, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes Naturally, such internecine battles within GOJ and the IC itself pose significant obstacles to rapid coordination in a crisis requiring whole-of-government response.

Weak leadership authority, integration, and information sharing has further exacerbated Japan’s relatively (by G7 standards) immature intelligence gathering and analysis capabilities. One expert argues that beyond its reliance on the extended deterrence of the US nuclear umbrella, Japan has long ‘counted on the US intelligence umbrella to make life-and-death decisions.’3232 Interviewee G, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes On the demand side, Japan’s Government has lacked effective means for policymakers to convey intelligence requirements to the IC. Exacerbating this issue is a culture prioritizing political consensus-building, rather than sound policy based on careful examination of intelligence.3333 Kotani, ‘Japan,’ 206.View all notes Japan’s lack of a security clearance system and robust classification scheme to facilitate the protection of sensitive intelligence laws to protect secrets, etc., has long been identified as a major obstacle to effective intelligence sharing internally, and also with foreign counterparts – most significantly, Washington. On the supply side, despite being responsible for coordination across the IC, both CIRO and the DCI have lacked means – for example, budgetary or personnel authority – to compel greater information sharing. The lack of a clearly designated institutional hub connecting the IC and political leaders – the DCI’s lack of a formal designation as IC ‘head’ – facilitated members seeking out the PM directly, bypassing DCI/CIRO. The functions of the Kantei as a coordinating body have traditionally been weak. Experts with first-hand experience in Japan’s crisis management consider this ‘lack of integrated, filtered intelligence’ a ‘big problem’ hamstringing Japan’s responses to past incidents.3434 Interviewees B and H, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes

Weak civilian-military integration

Beyond general institutional issues negatively affecting purely civilian sides of decision-making and internal coordination, several weaknesses specific to the security/military domain – and therefore especially relevant to a possible ECS crisis – have also affected crisis response.

For a variety of historical, normative, constitutional, and political reasons, since its 1954 establishment JSDF’s role in high-level decision-making has been extraordinarily circumscribed. For more than half-a-century, antimilitarism kept the JDA institutionally inferior and JSDF officers ostracized from much security planning/decision-making. Though influence gradually expanded during the Cold War – especially in response to the Soviet Far East military buildup beginning in the late 1970s – defense authorities’ and uniformed officers’ roles in policymaking remained extraordinarily constrained by any major power standard.3535 Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism.View all notes JSDF response to crises was limited significantly ‘not by a lack of skills, expertise, or professionalism, but rather by constitutional constraints.’3636 Katsumi Ishizuka, ‘The Crisis Management Capability of Japan’s Self Defense Forces for UN Peacekeeping, Counter-Terrorism, and Disaster Relief,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 201–22.View all notes

Several institutional characteristics are especially salient. First, the defense bureaucracy established to oversee the JSDF was set up as a subcabinet-level agency, not a full-fledged ministry, leaving it institutionally inferior and weak relative to other ministries (e.g., MoFA and the Ministry of Finance) and limiting its influence. Second, JSDF officers were often prevented from significant direct interaction with political leaders – even in an advisory role – and sidelined from national security decision-making. At important junctures, perspectives of military experts have often been downplayed, if not ignored. For example, when debating how to respond to the 1990–1991 Gulf War crisis, Kaifu reportedly forbade members of his Cabinet and MoFA even to mention the term ‘Self-Defense Forces’ when discussing Japan’s policy response.3737 Masaru Tamamoto, ‘Trial of an Ideal: Japan’s Debate over the Gulf Crisis,’ World Policy Journal 8/1 (1990), 97.View all notes Meanwhile, JSDF did not deploy a large contingent to assist in disaster relief following the 1995 Kobe earthquake out of concern for ‘antimilitarist sentiments and accusations about exploiting the crisis to expand the JSDF’s military role and scope of action.’3838 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 166.View all notes

Limited experience with military crises

Japan has simply had limited experience dealing with external military crises. Indeed, when one searches the historical record for instances of major crisis management, most have involved domestic affairs – especially responses to natural disasters such as the Kobe earthquake in the mid-1990s; or more recently, the 2011 triple disaster in Tohoku, which entailed the largest mobilization of JSDF personnel in history. The JSDF’s lack of involvement in traditional military contingencies – since its 1954 establishment no member has employed lethal force – and primary role in natural disaster relief cannot be ignored. Meanwhile, an emphasis on jointness within the JSDF itself of the sort central to an ECS political-military crisis or contingency is historically lacking; to say nothing of interorganizational cooperation between Japan’s de facto front line of defense – JCG – and the JSDF.

Sino-Japanese bilateral crisis management

Beyond internal factors, the existence, regularity, and robustness of high-level political, diplomatic, and military exchanges between Japan and China is also a crucial factor in assessing their ability to rapidly and effectively manage a possible ECS crisis. Numerous examples from the Cold War and beyond demonstrate that regular dialogue, high-level diplomacy, and crisis hotlines can help prevent miscalculation or misunderstanding that might otherwise foment a military crisis; or forestall escalation if one occurs. Tokyo and Beijing would thus appear to have a mutual interest in establishing, implementing, and effectively utilizing robust high-level diplomatic and emergency communication channels in a crisis to minimize miscalculation risk. If nothing else, geographical proximity and the importance of the relations between the world’s second and third largest economies would lead one to expect extensive institutionalization of bilateral hotlines and other mechanisms.

The reality is sobering. Multifarious factors – including geopolitics during the Cold War and anti-Japanese nationalism and other domestic political disincentives in China since – have historically rendered institutionalization of bilateral channels capable of rapidly and effectively preventing crisis escalation extraordinarily weak.3939 Hafeez, ‘Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises’; Erickson and Liff, ’Installing a Safety on the ‘Loaded Gun’?View all notes The informal pipelines between politicians central to diplomacy during the Cold War have weakened, while high-level political and military exchanges are irregular and infrequent – often years apart. At times, Beijing even suspends dialogue for protracted periods to express dissatisfaction with Tokyo – for example, following prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine or, more recently, a 2-year cutoff of summit meetings following the September 2012 island ‘nationalization.’ In recent years, most diplomacy has occurred through ministries of foreign affairs – particularly problematic given the institutional weakness of China’s MFA, which is often rendered irrelevant and ostracized from decision-making by far more powerful CCP organizations. Finally, despite a 2007 joint statement to establish a communications system between defense establishments to avoid naval and air incidents, the two sides have failed to achieve it. They remain unable to agree on terms to establish high-level political or military crisis management hotlines – a major potential impediment to escalation control in the event diplomatic or political resolution of a bilateral crisis.

Moreover, like some of its neighbors, China has a poor track record of actually using established hotlines in crisis.4040 Euan Graham, ‘Maritime Hotlines in East Asia,’ May 2014, https://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/RSIS_RFQ_Maritime-Hotlines-in-East-Asia_160514_Web.pdf.View all notes Likewise, while Japan and China have signed the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, it is highly limited, nonbinding, and Beijing has not employed it consistently even in peacetime.4141 Author’s interview with maritime operator experienced interacting with Chinese naval vessels, December 2016.View all notes

Prescription: Japan’s internal crisis management capabilities: recent reforms, remaining challenges

Beyond the manifest operational dangers, the preceding analysis provides clear institutional grounds for concern about the risk of escalation in waters or airspace in the ECS should an incident occur: China’s and Japan’s respective abilities to manage possible crises rapidly and effectively – both internally and bilaterally. But past is not destiny. In recent years, real-world crises ranging from the Gulf War and 9/11 to natural disasters such as the 1995 Kobe Earthquake have made Japan’s leaders increasingly aware of problems and willing to incrementally reform crisis management-relevant institutions.

A series of post-2009 developments appear to have catalyzed a critical mass of elite support for and public acceptance of more rapid, significant reforms. A major catalyst: concern about Japan’s changing security environment – not only the risk of a possible future military or paramilitary crisis involving China or North Korea but also growing awareness that in particular contingencies Japan is the front line. Additionally, manifest failures in the government’s response to the 11 March 2011 ‘triple’ (earthquake/tsunami/nuclear) disaster in Tohoku exposed persistent problems and inspired calls for a fundamental overhaul of Japan’s crisis management system. Ineffectual political and bureaucratic leaders and institutions were widely blamed for exacerbating the disaster’s catastrophic damage and fatalities. The crisis management center established in the Kantei was ad hoc, and did not function effectively.4242 Tsuyoshi Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC to wa Nani ka [What is the JNSC?] (Tokyo: Shinchosha 2014), 27.View all notes‘3.11’ also had direct implications for military-focused crisis management, challenging the JSDF and the US–Japan alliance in unprecedented ways. Japan’s response entailed the largest-ever mobilization of JSDF personnel and first-ever establishment of a JSDF joint task force, while the United States deployed nearly 20 ships, 140 aircraft, and 20,000 troops to assist.4343 For the seminal English-language analysis of 3.11’s diversified impact on Japan, see Samuels, 3.11. Samuels highlights 3.11’s limited transformational effect. However, recognized response failures influenced Japan’s and alliance managers’ thinking about crisis management deficiencies, which manifested in several important concrete reforms after his book went to print. The impact of 3/11 probably was not sufficient, but likely necessary. On the DPJ’s crisis response, see Tomohito Shinoda, ‘DPJ’s Political Leadership in Response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science14/2 (2013), 243–59.View all notes As Samuels notes in his seminal postmortem, GOJ officials criticized the Kan administration’s response with terms ranging from ‘feckless’ to ‘reckless.’ Puzzling to many observers, despite the JSDF’s massive and unprecedented deployment of over 100,000 personnel, Kan neither convened the SC nor involved senior JSDF officers in his emergency management team.4444 Samuels, 3.11, 9–16.View all notes

Given growing awareness of extant deficiencies, to what extent have recent reforms ameliorated long-standing Japanese weaknesses in crisis management, with particular application to a possible ECS contingency? Specifically, what weaknesses have post-2012 Abe administration reforms – especially its most significant, Japan’s newly established NSC – addressed?

Establishing Japan’s National Security Council: a tortuous path

As discussed above, Japan has long suffered major bureaucratic coordination problems and lacked a strong executive, especially concerning foreign policy formulation. At key moments in the past, however, dissatisfaction prompted attempts at reform, reorganization, and the creation of new institutions. Accordingly, since the 1980s several past leaders promoted institutional reforms and various efforts to consolidate decision-making in the Cabinet (and the PM’s office). Due in large part to political leaders’ difficulties responding to various crises, especially the Persian Gulf War, 9/11, and various natural disasters, since the early 1990s period political debates about policymaking process – in particular centralization of decision-making in a strong executive, national strategy formulation, and crisis management – gathered momentum.

As many Japanese observers have noted, an institution designed to mitigate many of the kinds of weaknesses traditionally manifest in Japan’s political system is the US NSC, established in 1947. Though imperfect and shaped critically by presidential personality and priorities even today, the US NSC is widely considered relatively proficient at interagency policy coordination and real-time crisis management. It is designed to:

  • Consolidate security policy formulation, implementation, and crisis management in a strong civilian/political executive;

  • Facilitate coherent, long-term national strategy formulation; provide a full-time staff with security and foreign policy expertise focused on formulating ‘big-picture’ policy ideas and managing crises in service of that larger, defined national security strategy;

  • Surmount internal coordination problems through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach designed to overcome bureaucratic sectionalism, balkanization, and ‘turf wars’ by assembling both principals (Cabinet officials) and their staffs for regular meetings to share intelligence and generate policy responses to crises;

  • In the person of a National Security Advisor, offer to foreign leaders a direct pipeline to the president. This channel can be crucial when tensions rise and normal diplomatic channels are ineffective.

 

In short, so the thinking went, a Japanese NSC could significantly strengthen Tokyo’s ability to manage crises rapidly and effectively.

Early efforts to address Japan’s long-standing institutional deficiencies by establishing a similar institution coalesced in the administration of Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982–1987), as Tokyo confronted an increasingly aggressive Moscow. In an effort to bolster the Cabinet’s control over foreign policy, in 1986 Nakasone – a former JDA chief, unabashed champion of a more ‘normal’ Japanese security posture, and one of Japan’s strongest, most ambitious, and longest serving postwar PMs – succeeded in establishing the aforementioned SC, which replaced the outdated (1956) Defense Council (kokubo kaigi). Its objective: to strengthen Cabinet crisis management and security decision-making efficacy.4545 Yuichiro Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC,’: Nihon no anzen hosho kaigi to Beikoku no NSC [Issues concerning ‘JNSC’: Japan’s security council and the US NSC] (Tokyo: National Diet Library 2006), 1. For a seminal overview of the SC’s origins, see Yasuaki Chijiwa, Kawariyuku Naikaku Anzen Hosho Kiko: Nihon-ban NSC Seiritsu e no Michi [Changing Cabinet Security Organizations: Road to NSC Establishment] (Tokyo: Harashobo 2015), Ch.3.View all notes

Yet the SC functioned more effectively in theory than in practice. It met only 6–8 times annually.4646 Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC’ no kadai, 2; Boei Handobukku [Handbook for Defense] (Tokyo: Asagumo 2016), 25.View all notes Though useful for formulating key documents (e.g., National Defense Program Guidelines), it was convened irregularly and often ignored. (As noted above, Kaifu did not even convene it during the first months of the Persian Gulf crisis.) Not designed as a standing body and without a secretariat, in practice the SC’s meetings were unwieldy, infrequent, and ad hoc, sometimes lasting a mere 10 minutes. As one expert assessed, SC meetings were ‘ceremonial, with no practical discussion,’ and members often simply read transcripts prepared by bureaucrats.’4747 Interviewee E, January 2015.View all notes Though such claims are hyperbolic – for example, the order for Japan’s first-ever maritime police operation against an armed North Korean spy ship (March 1999) was given during an SC meeting4848 Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC’ no kadai, 3.View all notes – the larger point remains: In contrast to a US-style NSC, Japan’s SC was not a standing body with fixed participants, regular meetings, and a large support staff with daily responsibilities (e.g., conducting advance planning sufficient to handle crises demanding rapid response). Accordingly, when asked to reflect on the erstwhile SC, current and former officials and JSDF officers disparage it as ineffective in policy coordination and managing crises.4949 Various interviews; Tokyo, January 2015, July 2016 and August 2016.View all notes Despite its familiar-sounding name, it was not designed, empowered, or functional in practice as a mature NSC.

Administrative reform and centralization of decision-making in the Kantei accelerated in the 1990s, particularly under Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who established an office for crisis management in the Cabinet Secretariat and in April 1998 created a coordinator position: deputy chief cabinet secretary for Crisis Management.5050 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 161. See also Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC,’ 44–56.View all notes The idea for a more robust Japan-style NSC (Nihon-ban NSC) gained significant traction during the Koizumi years, due to a changing regional strategic environment – especially perceived threats vis-a-vis North Korea – and internal and US pressures to respond to 9.11 and operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Specific to crisis management, in 2001 reforms created three assistant deputy chief Cabinet secretary positions to assist the chief cabinet secretary with coordination over foreign affairs, domestic affairs, and contingencies and crisis management.5151 Mainichi Shimbun, ‘SDF officer could become assistant deputy chief cabinet secretary for 1st Time.’ 17 April 2015. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150417p2a00m0na020000c.html.View all notes After taking office that year, Koizumi – a charismatic, proactive premier – championed various reforms to strengthen the Cabinet’s role in foreign policy and the Kantei’s coordinating role within the government (so-called kantei shudo: ‘Kantei leadership’).5252 For seminal English-language analysis of Koizumi’s foreign policy, see Shinoda, Koizumi Diplomacy.View all notes Two years later, in the aftermath of 9/11, the government developed a basic outline for crisis response and passed three laws governing responses to ‘armed attack’ situations, bringing closure to a 25-year-old (1977) JDA study whose legislative implications had theretofore been deemed too politically sensitive to submit to the Diet.5353 Defense of Japan 2006 (Tokyo: Japan Defense Agency, 2006Japan Defense Agency, Defense of Japan 2006 (Tokyo: Japan Defense Agency 2006).http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/pdf/2006/2-3-1.pdf [Google Scholar]), 125–133. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/pdf/2006/2-3-1.pdfView all notes Such emergency legislation had proven politically (and constitutionally) problematic in the past, even when crises such as  the 1995 Kobe Earthquake generated widespread demand.5454 Richard J. Samuels, ‘Politics, Security Policy, and Japan’s Cabinet Legislation Bureau: Who Elected These Guys, Anyway?’ JPRI Working Paper No. 99(2004). http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp99.htmlView all notes Yet Koizumi pushed the important legislation through. Meanwhile, the Koizumi-commissioned expert ‘Araki Commission’ took – arguably – a major step toward formulating a clear National Security Strategy and NSC proposal.5555 Yuki Tatsumi, Japan Times, ‘First step to a national security strategy,’ 23 October 2004.View all notes

Over time, calls for further centralization of decision-making and strategic formulation – and an NSC in particular – became increasingly explicit. Meanwhile, academic interest in an NSC and its implications for improved crisis management and security policy integration grew.5656 The seminal comparative study in the Japanese context is Matsuda Yasuhiro, (ed.), NSC Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi: Kiki Kanri/Anpo Seisaku Togo Mekanizumu no Hikaku Kenkyu [NSC: Comparative Research on Crisis Management and Security Policy Integration Mechanisms] (Tokyo: Sairyusha 2009).View all notesKoizumi’s successor, Abe (2006–2007), championed legislation to establish a US-style NSC, not only to facilitate swift decision-making and coordination but also to establish a robust Kantei-IC intelligence cycle.5757 Kotani, ‘Japan,’ 206–07.View all notes In addition to extensive ties with the US NSC and other officials, he came to appreciate the importance of a ‘control tower’ during his time responsible for crisis response within the Kantei as chief cabinet secretary (2005–2006), when he led responses to North Korean missile tests.5858 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 38–42.View all notes Abe’s abortive first prime ministership (365 days in office) prevented him from achieving this goal, however, and the effort stalled under his successor, Yasuo Fukuda (2007–2008). Ironically, whereas Fukuda, who had been Koizumi’s chief cabinet secretary, appeared less interested in security affairs – and an NSC in particular – and the subsequent Aso administration (2008–2009) was too short-lived, a related effort gained steam after the longtime opposition DPJ became the ruling party in late 2009. The DPJ created a National Strategy Office (kokka senryakushitsu) led by Kan, then deputy PM, staffed by politicians, and tasked with formulating national strategy – albeit in practice focused more on economic growth and financial affairs. The ultimate goal was a new National Strategy Bureau designed to coordinate foreign, national security, and economic policy, but this was never realized.5959 Sheila A. Smith, Japan’s New Politics(NY: Council on Foreign Relations Press 2014), 24–25.View all notes Meanwhile, the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines called for the Kantei to establish a body ‘responsible for national security policy coordination among relevant ministers and for providing advice to the Prime Minister.’6060 Ministry of Defense, ‘NATIONAL DEFENSE PROGRAM GUIDELINES for FY 2011 and beyond,’ 17 December 2010. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_act/d_policy/pdf/guidelinesFY2011.pdf.View all notes

The DPJ’s desire to centralize policymaking in political leaders (seiji shudo) and disdain for career bureaucrats’ longstanding dominance led it to adopt arguably well-intentioned policies that backfired, at least temporarily – especially given its leaders’ relative inexperience. Especially under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama (2009–2010), its tactics created new dysfunction and coordination problems. Intentional ostracization of the bureaucracy and ineffective coordination by the chief cabinet secretary proved particularly problematic.6161 Hitoshi Tanaka, ‘Hatoyama’s Resignation and Japan’s Foreign Policy,’ East Asia Insights 5/3 (2010), http://www.jcie.or.jp/insights/5-3.html.View all notesHatoyama even abolished the regular administrative vice ministers’ meeting (jimu jikan kaigi) – designed to coordinate policy across ministries but seen as institutionalizing ‘mutual self-protection of each bureaucratic stovepipe.’6262 Michael J. Green, ‘Japan’s Confused Revolution,’ The Washington Quarterly33/1 (2010), 9.View all notes The DPJ’s third and final Prime Minister – Yoshihiko Noda – proved far more interested in security affairs than his two predecessors, and attempted to change course. Not only did he reinstate the administrative vice ministers’ meeting6363 Smith, Japan’s New Politics, 24–25.View all notes but with extensive involvement of fellow DPJ member (and security expert) Seiji Maehara, he also actively pursued an NSC, even preparing a full detailed proposal. Though the DPJ would lose power before implementing it, Maehara reportedly shared the proposal with Abe and the LDP.6464 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 124–30.View all notes

Despite decades of incremental reforms and differing strengths and weaknesses, structural problems, internal and interagency communication failures, and ad hoc approaches plagued Japan’s crisis management efforts under both LDP and DPJ administrations, and past reforms (as of 2012) were insufficient.6565 Ellis Krauss, ‘Crisis Management, LDP, and DPJ Style,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 177–99.View all notes Noda-era developments revealed, however, that bipartisan support existed for an NSC.

Abe-era breakthrough: accelerating reforms and NSC establishment

By the time Abe returned to Kantei in December 2012, several stars had aligned to allow success where past leaders (including himself) had failed. He capitalized on a decades-old trend of incremental reforms. With Abe at its head, the ruling LDP–Komeito coalition also exploited widespread voter discontent toward the DPJ – due significantly to perceived mishandled crisis management during 3.11 – and fractious opposition parties to achieve stunning election victories. Meanwhile, widespread perceptions of Japan’s increasingly ‘severe’ and ‘complex’ security environment led many in Japan to conclude that security and institutional status quos were unsustainable, creating political space for major reforms. North Korean nuclear and missile tests; coupled with China’s rapidly growing military capabilities, the increasing scope of its military operations and exercises, and the upsurge in military and paramilitary activity in the ECS; were concrete enablers. More abstractly, a changing distribution of power within East Asia and deepening concerns about Japan’s long-standing, disproportionate reliance on Washington given new geopolitical complexities also played a role.6666 Adam P. Liff, ‘Japan’s Defense Policy: Abe the Evolutionary.’ The Washington Quarterly 38/2 (2015), 79–99.View all notes In particular, the emergence of uninhabited islands as the major flashpoint in Sino-Japanese relations and concerns about American willingness to fight for them have accelerated a realization within Tokyo that Japan is on the front lines.

Context: security policy and alliance reforms under Abe

In this domestic and international context, elite support for major reforms reached critical mass during the first year of Abe’s second stint as PM. Accelerating longer term trends, Abe moved to significantly consolidate Kantei control over foreign and security policymaking. He picked up where he left off in 2007 in pursuing centralization of power in the Kantei and more robust national security-relevant institutions. The move with arguably the greatest significance for mitigating long-standing Japanese institutional deficiencies in crisis management was the establishment of Japan’s first-ever NSC and promulgation of its first-ever comprehensive National Security Strategy in December 2013. Abe also pushed through major reforms to the JSDF’s mandate and capabilities (including introducing amphibious forces for the first time since 1945), further expanded JCG’s capabilities, supported significant changes to the US–Japan alliance, culminating in the 2015 Guidelines for US–Japan Defense Cooperation – the first major revision since 1997 – and pushed through the Diet a package of security legislation to provide legal foundation for operationalization of the 2014 Cabinet resolution allowing Japan limited exercise of the right to collective self-defense.

Japan’s new National Security Council

By establishing JNSC a year after returning to the prime ministership, Abe overcame extant, if weakening, bureaucratic and political resistance (and complacency) to further consolidate security decision-making in the executive, bolster interagency coordination, and strengthen Japan’s intelligence gathering, analysis, and sharing capabilities.

Reasons for establishment and key characteristics

Established in December 2013 in the Cabinet Secretariat, JNSC’s mandate and potential far exceed the institution it replaced: the ineffectual and largely ad hoc 1986 SC.6767 For major Japanese-language analyses of JNSC’s origins and significance, see Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC; Ken Kotani, ‘Nihon-ban Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi (NSC) no Kinoteki Tokucho’ [National Security Council of Japan and Its Functional Features],’ Kokusai Anzen Hosho 42/4 (2015), 61–75; Chijiwa, Kawariyuku Naikaku Anzen Hosho Kiko.View all notes As defined in Japan’s 2014 defense white paper, the rationale for JNSC’s creation was straightforward:

While the security environment surrounding Japan is further increasing in severity, the government is working towards the establishment of a National Security Council which would give fundamental direction for foreign and security policies from a strategic perspective, with a consciousness that it is necessary for the entire Cabinet to work on the strengthening of foreign affairs and the security system of Japan.6868 Defense of Japan 2014 (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense 2014Ministry of Defense, Defense of Japan 2014 (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense 2014). [Google Scholar]), 105.View all notes

 

Although a work in progress, JNSC’s degree of institutionalization and capability already suggest that it is well on its way to achieving its basic mandate: to serve as a ‘command center (shireito) for […] diplomatic and security policies.’6969 Defense of Japan 2014.View all notes In so doing, it appears well-placed to ameliorate Japan’s long-standing crisis management deficiencies delineated in the ‘Diagnosis’ section, above. Key aspects include:

  • Further consolidation of strategic and policy planning in the Cabinet (the executive), manifest in the genesis and promulgation of Japan’s first-ever comprehensive National Security Strategy;

  • A standing National Security Advisor who reports directly to the PM, runs a new National Security Secretariat (NSS, see below), and plays a crucial diplomatic role as the PM’s representative on security matters (thus serving as the direct counterpart of national security advisors in the United States and other countries). The National Security Advisor’s role as a diplomatic pipeline can also be essential in a crisis, or any other time when normal diplomatic channels and links between top leaders are not functioning properly7070 Abe named former vice-minister for foreign affairs Shotaro Yachi as Japan’s first national security advisor. Yachi meets regularly with other countries’ national security advisors, and was also the main player in secret negotiations in secret negotiations with Beijing leading up to the November 2014 four-point statements and subsequent Sino-Japanese APEC summit – ending China’s 2-year ban on summitry.View all notes ;

  • Regular meetings convening key national security-relevant principals, their staffs, and relevant ministries and agencies;

  • Active efforts to streamline policy planning and strengthen interagency coordination by creating (in January 2014) within the Cabinet Secretariat a new NSS that assembles roughly 70 bureaucrats from various ministries and agencies (especially MoD/JSDF, MoFA, and the NPA) with national security policy expertise under one roof to plan, draft, and coordinate foreign and defense policies; integrate and compile intelligence, and serve as JNSC’s secretariat;

  • De facto decision-making power (lacking in its predecessor) effectively requiring only ‘rubber stamp’ approval from the Cabinet7171 Kotani, ‘Japan.’View all notes ;

  • Legal mandate to force relevant ministries and agencies (read: IC) to provide the JNSC with national-security-relevant materials, intelligence, and analysis7272 See Article 6, Clause 2 of Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi Secchiho [National Security Council Establishment Law], http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S61/S61HO071.html.View all notes ;

  • And more direct involvement in security policy decision-making of military experts – uniformed JSDF personnel.

 

As countermeasures against bureaucratic stovepiping and to facilitate rapid, effective internal policy coordination and crisis management, the JNSC/NSS’s membership is widely representative across government bureaucracies, including intelligence agencies and uniformed JSDF personnel. Thus, one function is to establish and deepen working relationships among national security-relevant personnel through regular meetings. Knowing who to call in a crisis is a key component of crisis management.

Reinforcing these salutary trends is that JNSC and associated legislation have come into force concomitant with major reforms of intelligence collection, analysis, and synthesis of intelligence ongoing since the mid-2000s. Though not an intelligence gathering or analytical agency itself, the NSS plays a crucial role in synthesizing intelligence for the policy sector; intelligence which is essential for policy formulation and crisis response. JNSC thus functions as a key institutional hub connecting the IC to policymakers.7373 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community.’View all notes The DCI attends NSC meetings regularly and provides Abe a regular consolidated but detailed ‘all-sourced’ brief on intelligence data and policy choices. Compared to a decade earlier, post-2012 prime ministerial meetings with the DCI have more than doubled, with a significant increase in meetings involving both the DCI and other members of the IC – suggesting significantly enhanced intra-IC coordination and reduced efforts to bypass the DCI.7474 ibid, 718; 727–30. Kobayashi notes the exception is IAS’ (MoFA) head, who still visits the PM without the DCI.View all notes JNSC is legally empowered to require IC-relevant components of ministries and agencies to provide intelligence, which is then synthesized to facilitate a whole-of-government response. This powerful legal mandate facilitates direct political requests to the IC, in addition to basically compelling various ministries and intelligence agencies to gather and, importantly, to share information on national security affairs. It thus helps dissolve the IC’s historic balkanization and protectionism. While they still jockey for influence, one official assesses that MoFA, MoD, and NPA competition increasingly manifests more constructively: ‘competition to provide high-quality intelligence’ to JNSC and ‘good, comprehensive reports’ to the PM. Information sharing is described variously as ‘much better’ and ‘now more effective, efficient, and immediate.’7575 Interviewee D, Tokyo, January 2015.View all notes The 2013 Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, another Abe-spearheaded initiative which came into force in December 2014, facilitates this effort by raising the costs of leaks, thus making agencies more comfortable sharing information interagency.7676 Email exchange with Interviewee I, July 2016; Interviewee J, Tokyo, July 2016.View all notes

Organizational structure and current status

In contrast to its ad hoc predecessor, JNSC is standing (meets regularly), flexible, and scalable: able to convene meetings at different levels depending on the issue, or nature of an issue or crisis. Most important is the new, regular (biweekly) ‘Four-Minister Meeting’ – the first of its kind in Japan’s postwar history – which assembles the PM, chief cabinet secretary, and ministers of defense and foreign affairs to discuss national security issues. The 2014 defense white paper specifies their mandate: ‘Giving fundamental direction for foreign and defense policies concerning national security.’7777 Defense of Japan 2014, 105.View all notes As needed, principals’ meetings can be expanded to include additional players, including the Nine-Minister Meeting (PM (Chair), Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Finance, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Minister of Defense, Chief Cabinet Secretary, Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission). Particularly relevant to the present study is the ability to surge personnel in the event of a major security crisis – especially the newly established ‘Ministerial Emergency Meeting.’ Though the deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management remains in charge of crisis management, the NSS administers the meeting, which involves the key principals. Meanwhile, NSS itself consists of six standing teams – administration, strategy, intelligence, and three geographically defined ‘policy groups’ – tasked with analysis and briefings on specific issue areas. Each group is led by an official equivalent to a ministerial division chief.

In short, in the context of additional related reforms, JNSC and associated legislation represents an historic breakthrough in bolstering Japan’s national security and crisis management-relevant institutions. More generally, recent developments significantly strengthen the executive’s decision-making role in foreign policy. In important aspects, these reforms are designed to directly ameliorate many of the long-standing deficiencies in Japan’s institutions discussed above Section III. Though the function and efficacy of any NSC varies widely from administration to administration, with Washington’s a clear case-in-point, at least at present JNSC appears to represent a major institutional innovation for Japan.

Additional post-2012 trends auguring well for crisis management

 

  • Low turnover of national security principals; stable, focused, and proactive political leadership:

    • To date in the post-war era, Abe is the sixth-longest continually serving PM, Suga is the longest-serving chief cabinet secretary (the hub for crisis management and interagency/whole-of-government coordination), and Kishida is the longest continually serving foreign minister (Caveat: Abe has had four defense ministers).

     

  • Continuing IC reforms to improve collection, analysis, and sharing as well as information security, and to deepen connections between policymakers and the IC by clearly designating the Cabinet Intelligence Council as the institutional hub:

    • These reforms accelerated since a special panel on intelligence reform (established by Abe during his first premiership) released policy recommendations in 2008.7878 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community.’View all notes

    • Directly relevant to the ECS, since 2008 four new ‘associate members,’ including JCG, participate ad hoc in IC activities. Japan’s reconnaissance satellites became fully operational in 2013.

     

  • Bolstering JCG presence and capabilities near southwestern islands to speed response and reduce pressures to escalate to mil-mil interaction.7979 Japan Times, ‘Japan coast guard deploys 12 ships to patrol Senkakus,’ 4 April 2016.View all notes

  • Measures to strengthen JSDF ISR and other capabilities and crisis response, including:

    • Significant expansion of ISR capabilities in Japan’s remote southwestern islands (near the Senkakus), including a new base (radar station) on Yonaguni;

    • Legislation expediting decision-making by granting relevant key JSDF leaders equivalent status to their civilian MoD counterparts and calling for them to assist the defense minister jointly, with the former providing military advice, the latter policy advice8080 Japan Times, ‘Defense ministry bureaucrats to lose their rank superiority over SDF officers,’ 10 June 2015.View all notes ;

    • Amphibious capabilities and rapid-response Ground Central Command headquarters to be established by 2018.8181 The Japan News, ‘Rapid-Response Headquarters to Be Launched to Help GSDF Act in Crises,’ 17 June 2015.View all notes

     

  • Measures to strengthen US-Japan bilateral crisis coordination, including: Increased focus on and planning for rapid, ‘seamless’ – across all possible conflict phases – and ‘whole-of-government’ responses to various contingencies, including ‘gray zone’ incidents short of armed attack, independently and together, including replacement of the (never-activated) Bilateral Coordination Mechanism with a standing, ‘always-on’ Alliance Coordination Mechanism.8282 The Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation (Washington, DC: Department of Defense 2015Department of Defense, The Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation(Washington, DC: Department of Defense 2015).http://www.defense.gov/pubs/20150427_–_GUIDELINES_FOR_US-JAPAN_DEFENSE_COOPERATION_FINALCLEAN.pdf [Google Scholar]), http://www.defense.gov/pubs/20150427_–_GUIDELINES_FOR_US-JAPAN_DEFENSE_COOPERATION_FINAL&CLEAN.pdf. The allies often exercised but never activated the BCM in a real-world crisis – even in cases of North Korean nuclear or missile tests, or when urgent military coordination in which thousands of lives were at stake, such as Operational Tomodachi in 2011. The apparent precondition was armed attack (war). Washington had requested activation but Tokyo refused due to concerns about domestic and foreign backlash.View all notes

  • Incremental steps to deepen collaboration between the JCG, on the ECS front lines, and the JMSDF, including their first-ever joint drills.8383 Kyodo, ‘Japan defense force to hold drill to handle maritime ‘Gray Zone’ case,’ 7 July 2015.View all notes GOJ has also deepened integration among JSDF branches to bolster jointness, and may announce a permanent joint headquarters soon.8484 Japan Times, ‘Japan eyes permanent joint HQ for SDF,’ 13 March 2016.View all notes

 

Caveats and outstanding questions

Given a widely perceived worsening regional security environment, coalescing elite support for major reforms to Japan’s security policy and related institutions and crisis management has generated significant progress in addressing long-standing problems. Nevertheless, JNSC remains nascent. Many questions concerning its long-term role and efficacy remain.

First, how sustainable are Abe-era developments? How deeply institutionalized is JNSC, as well as the integration and cooperation that its effective functioning requires? How much will efficacy depend on leadership: the composition of a Cabinet – and the PM in particular?

The American case demonstrates wide variance in function, efficacy, and mandates of NSCs, based on the preferences, views, and experience of each president. In Japan’s case, one must be cautious generalizing from an ‘N’ of 1, particularly when that one case is Abe – widely recognized as an especially motivated, proactive champion of more robust Japanese foreign policy, especially in the security domain.

Specific to JNSC, as its immediate political progenitor Abe has a strong personal interest in the institution, whose efficacy impacts his legacy. Indeed, he was the primary driver of the 2007 legislation providing the basic framework, and the 2013 National Security Strategy reflects his own strong personal views.8585 Yuki Tatsumi. East Asia Forum, ‘Can Japan’s national security strategy outlive Abe?’ 18 November 2014. http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/11/18/can-japans-national-security-strategy-outlive-abe/.View all notes Future leaders will have different perspectives, and policy priorities. Despite relative stability at present, Japan’s high turnover of key principals and high variability concerning PM interest in security affairs raises additional uncertainty after Abe leaves office. Is the second ‘Abe era’ a harbinger of a ‘new normal’ of greater leadership stability in Japan? When one reflects on Japan’s recent leaders, Abe and his Cabinet may prove exceptional on both counts.

Second, a significant new institution’s creation, particularly one with an integrative mandate, inevitably raises questions of how smoothly it interacts with extant institutions. Given overlapping mandates, how JNSC cooperates with officials in institutions traditionally responsible for related issues – especially MoFA, MoD, and the NPA – is a key variable. Will cooperation or competition prevail? Japan’s ministries have historically been powerful, balkanized, and resistant to consolidation of decision-making in the Cabinet. MoFA was resistant to NSC’s establishment, and concerns that the latter will emerge as a‘ second MoFA’ have some anecdotal support – such as National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi’s extremely active role in Kantei-centered diplomacy, especially with China. (Concerns may be partially mitigated at present because Yachi is a retired career MoFA diplomat). Within the IC, despite recent reforms the DCI still has no budgetary or personnel authority over other community members, raising questions about the extent to which the DCI’s coordinating role remains under-institutionalized and perhaps unique to the current administration.8686 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community,’ 731.View all notes

Another concern, both practical and regarding domestic sensitivities concerning civilian control: How will MOD bureaucrats respond to JSDF officers’ new status equivalence, increasingly direct role in decision-making and direct line to the PM, within and outside JNSC?

While JNSC principals (ministers and directors) are political appointees and likely relatively loyal to the Cabinet (and PM), the large (~60–~70 strong) staff of career bureaucrats seconded to NSS from other ministries and agencies may face contradictory loyalties and incentives, and will be a major variable shaping the organization’s efficacy. (Here, the traditional colonizing role of Ministry of Finance staff seconded to the erstwhile JDA provides a potential warning). So far, the Abe NSC/NSS appears to have benefited from these organizations’ willingness to send their ‘best and brightest.’ Some foreign/security policy-focused bureaucrats note the unique ‘attractiveness’ of an NSC under Abe, who is widely seen as prioritizing foreign affairs and security issues, which affords prestige and influence to seconded officials. Whether ministries and agencies will willingly second to an NSS sufficient quality and number of staff in the future remains uncertain, especially if they judge a future PM uninterested (or unqualified) to lead on national security. Among those seconded, high turnover is another possible problem.

One final note directly relevant to effective crisis response in certain scenarios: the new security legislation makes clear that Diet approval is necessary to deploy the JSDF overseas.8787 There is some space for ex post Diet approval in certain emergencies. See Alexandra Sakaki and Kerstin Lukner, ‘Japan’s uncertain security environment and changes in its legislative‒executive relations,’ West European Politics 40/1 (2017), 139–60.View all notesDespite recent efforts to institutionalize roles and missions, much decision-making in practice is likely to remain ad hoc, subject to heavy political contestation, and dependent in large part on personalities: who is the PM, what is the makeup of the Diet, and what are their respective interpretations of specific laws (and the Constitution itself). These processes may delay – or prevent – effective crisis response, especially in cases requiring ‘use of force’ (buryoku koshi); extremely controversial in a country whose JSDF has not used deadly kinetic force since its establishment in 1954. In certain scenarios, this otherwise laudable resistance to using deadly force may be an obstacle to rapid crisis response or deterrence to prevent escalation.

Outstanding challenges for alliance crisis response

Under certain political-military crises, rapid and effective coordination between Japan and the United States will be crucial. Though establishment of the new standing Alliance Coordination Mechanism and creation of a direct counterpart to the US NSC/National Security Advisor bodes well for real-time, whole-of-government US–Japan crisis management, several caveats, and outstanding questions remain.

First, the alliance’s formal structure, which is unchanged, may delay effective crisis response – especially in a military contingency. Separate chains-of-command may limit rapid, unified response and interoperability. Second, despite the 2015 Guidelines’ emphasis on a ‘global’ alliance, interpretations of international ‘crises’ may differ widely. Without constitutional revision, Japan’s global security role may be limited to logistical support, except in extreme cases posing existential (kuni no sonritsu) threats. Again, extensive Diet debate could still delay practical action.8888 Liff, ‘Japan’s Defense Policy.’View all notes Despite immense hype surrounding the Abe Cabinet’s 2014 constitutional reinterpretation to allow Japan to defend an ally under attack,8989 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ‘Cabinet Decision on Development of Seamless Security Legislation to Ensure Japan’s Survival and Protect Its People,’ 1 July 2014, http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/nsp/page23e_000273.html.View all notes three restrictive conditions ensure that exercise of collective self-defense even in an alliance-related crisis in or near the ECS is not guaranteed. Conditions under which the Japanese government can actually support the United States with the Self-Defense Forces will be subject to political interpretation. As the 2015 Guidelines state, ‘each’ party will decide (separately) whether to employ kinetic force.9090 Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation, 16.View all notesThis means that JSDF involvement will be a political decision. Left to the Diet and/or an indecisive leader, response may be slow. Heightening ambiguity and uncertainty regarding alliance coordination in a crises in the ECS, although Washington is committed to playing a rolein any conflict posing a threat to territory under Tokyo’s administration, it is not entirely clear what specific role the United States would play in a so-called ‘grey zone’ contingency – one that falls below the use of force. Fortunately, recent security legislation has expanded the scope of bilateral operational planning and exercises.9191 Corresponding author’s interviews, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, June–July 2016.View all notes

External: Sino-Japanese bilateral crisis management capabilities

In high-stakes crisis diplomacy, it takes two to tango. As it concerns external crisis management specific to the ECS, despite nearly a decade of Tokyo-led efforts to establish bilateral hotlines with Beijing, little has changed. As of this writing, in an apparent game of diplomatic chicken and effort to extract political concessions from Tokyo as its increasing military and paramilitary deployments significantly increase risk, China’s leaders have thus far resisted signing a previously negotiated agreement to establish robust, rapid, and effective communication channels in the event of an incident. Though negotiations are underway on a three-pronged ‘Air–Sea Contact Mechanism,’ reportedly to include a hotline, annual meetings, and common radio frequency ship and aircraft communications near the islands, these discussions have persisted for years. The proof of progress will be in its formal establishment and actual utilization. 9292 Adam P. Liff and Andrew S. Erickson, AJW by Asahi Shimbun, ‘Japan-China crisis management–the urgent need for air-sea contact mechanism,’ 9 July 2015.View all notes Meanwhile, national security advisors can at least serve as pipelines in moments of crisis. Until bilateral relations – including hotlines and regular military contacts – are less beholden to shifting political winds, the JNSC remains a key mechanism for increasing crisis manageability and reducing escalation risk.

Beijing’s posture vis-à-vis bilateral crisis management mechanisms is remarkable given its establishment of crisis hotlines with many countries over the past two decades, including Washington and even South China Sea disputant Vietnam. But it is also symptomatic of other trends in Sino-Japanese relations with negative implications for bilateral crisis communication. Noxious political relations severely limit official political and military exchange. For example, as of spring 2016 the PLAN and JMSDF had not held a defense exchange for 7 years.9393 Defense News, ‘Interview: Adm. Tomohisa Takei, chief of staff, Japanese maritime self-defense force,’ 30 March 2016.View all notes Politically, after Japan’s September 2012 ‘nationalization’ of three of the islands Xi Jinping severed high-level dialogue, declining summit meeting requests from Abe for more than two years, precisely as Chinese operations significantly increased risk of a clash. Though summits, albeit infrequent and irregular, have resumed since November 2014, even basic communication channels are hardly robust. In early 2016, FM Kishida’s Chinese counterpart reportedly ignored Kishida’s phone calls after North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.9494 AJW by Asahi Shimbun, ‘Chinese foreign minister won’t take Kishida’s calls during N. Korean Crisis,’ 10 February 2016.View all notes

An unfortunate commentary on bilateral political relations today, coupled with other aforementioned factors, the absence of basic, much less robust, crisis management mechanisms between Tokyo and Beijing exacerbates the possibility of miscalculation or escalation in a possible fast-moving political-military crisis.

Conclusion

In a declassified 1991 cable to Washington following the Persian Gulf crisis, then US Ambassador to Japan Michael Armacost candidly summarized Japan’s crisis management weaknesses as ‘totally inadequate.’ He continued, ‘Emergency cabinet meetings were held regularly with no real agenda, simply to give appearance of action. Cabinet members and senior bureaucrats were tied up all day in sterile Diet sessions and then returned to their offices in the evening to review material for next day’s sessions, leaving little time for policy development.’ As for intelligence collection, Armacost writes, ‘Relevant MoFA office directors stayed in the building round the clock for days on end [… redaction …] while in reality the ministry ended up relying on CNN.’ ‘The GOJ was caught off-guard by the Gulf Crisis, proved incapable of developing its own analysis of the situation as it evolved, and came up with no policy response other than following the US lead.’9595 Armacost, Michael, The National Security Archive, ‘US ambassador Michael armacost cable to the state department,’ 14 March 1991. http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB175/japan2-13.pdfView all notes

How times have changed! On 4 December 2013, the first-ever meeting of Japan’s newly established NSC convened the PM, the chief cabinet secretary, and the foreign and defense ministers in the first of regular biweekly meetings. The agenda was instructive: Japan’s new National Security Strategy, the National Defense Program Guidelines, and China’s newly established ECS ADIZ.9696 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 3.View all notes The personnel involved demonstrates deepening executive leadership of national security policy and interagency coordination. The first item indicates JNSC’s central role articulating a ‘big picture’ national security strategy that foreign policy and crisis management are to support; the second indicates how major defense planning is further centralized in Kantei, with input from interagency (including the IC and JSDF); and the third shows how JNSC will address concerns about China and exigencies in the ECS and beyond – including potential crises – requiring a rapid, whole-of-government response. From December 2013 to December 2015, JNSC convened 77 times – roughly once every 10 days – a stark departure from its SC predecessor’s roughly half-dozen meetings per year.9797 Combined total of four- and nine-minister meetings. Boei Handobukku, 25.View all notes

Recent operational trends in the ECS raise serious concerns about risk, room for error, and paucity of escalation firebreaks in the event of a Sino-Japanese incident, unintended or not. Unilaterally asserting that its actions since September 2012 ‘terminat[ed]’ Japan’s ‘exclusive actual control’ of the islands, Beijing appears determined to maintain if not expand its operational footprint.9898 Xing Qu, ‘Four Features of the International Situation in 2012,’ in Guoji Wenti Yanjiusuo, Ed. CIIS Blue Book on International Situation and China’s Foreign Affairs (Beijing: World Affairs Press 2013). http://www.ciis.org.cn/english/2013-06/04/content_6002574.htm.View all notes Japan shows no signs of yielding, yet Chinese expectations (and capabilities) have only grown – exacerbating tensions that together with widespread, CCP-encouraged anti-Japanese nationalism, may provide dry kindling for escalation of a political-military crisis.

What Japan can achieve unilaterally is limited, and there is no such thing as a perfect array of institutions. Nevertheless, it appears that Japan’s recent reforms, especially its new standing NSC and NSS, significantly ameliorate long-standing institutional deficiencies within Japan’s political system. In particular, they bolster centralization of decision-making in an executive, help reduce stovepiping within and across ministries and agencies, and strengthen internal communication and intelligence sharing and analysis. Specific to a potential political-military crisis, also significant is the extent to which Abe has accelerated ongoing security reforms, including strengthening the role of uniformed personnel and bolstering interoperability and coordination with Washington. Remarkably, these reforms directly address each of five major deficiencies with Japan’s crisis management identified by six academic studies conducted immediately before Abe’s return to Kantei in late 2012.9999 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 171.View all notes

These efforts exemplify Abe’s relative focus on capacity-building, prioritization of security issues, centralization and enhanced internal coordination of foreign and security policymaking, and rationalization of the military–civilian sides of relevant bureaucracies. As with other security policy reforms, however, this is not ‘all about Abe.’ In establishing JNSC, Japan under Abe has built on past reforms, achieving rapid and significant – albeit still evolutionary – progress. Much is due to timing and circumstance. Indeed, Abe has deftly exploited an enervated, fractious opposition, deepening and increasingly widely held perceptions of a worsening regional security environment, and years of incremental efforts by his forebears to dissipate strong bureaucratic, political, and normative resistance. The result: He and his allies have significantly strengthened  intragovernmental policy coordination and the role of the PM and his Cabinet as a ‘control tower’ in national security decision-making.

Though it remains in its infancy, preliminary evidence suggests that JNSC may be Japan’s most significant national security- and crisis management-relevant institutional reform in decades. Current trends suggest that Japan’s crisis management-relevant institutions may face increasing challenges in the years ahead. In the ECS, China seems unlikely to ease operational and diplomatic pressure on Japan. More generally, as PLA and CCG capabilities (and operational area) expand, Sino-Japanese maritime and air encounters are likely to increase. Meanwhile, with two nuclear and more than 20 missile tests in 2016 alone, North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear programs are progressing rapidly. How effectively Japan’s institutions evolve to meet these challenges will be an important issue going forward. As with many aspects of contemporary East Asia, reality is fluid and many outstanding questions remain. Analysis of Japan’s NSC and other crisis management-related institutions should be updated and revised as new conditions (and data) emerge.

Acknowledgments

The authors thank Thomas Christensen, Thomas Fingar, Taylor Fravel, Michael Green, Takako Hikotani, Ken Kotani, Alexandra Sakaki, Richard Samuels, and Jim Schoff for substantive feedback at earlier stages of this project, as well as audiences at the following venues for insightful questions and comments: Princeton University’s China and the World speaker series, Harvard University’s Program on US–Japan Relations seminar series, Stanford University’s Shorenstein APARC Public Seminar speaker series, and the International Studies Association’s 2016 Annual Conference. They are grateful to Ayumi Teraoka for suggesting valuable resources, and to dozens of experts and current and former officials in Tokyo, Beijing, and Washington for the opportunity to interviewee them on condition of anonymity.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Notes

1 Toft, Monica, ‘Territory and War,’ Journal of Peace Research 51/2 (2014), 185–198.

Reuters, ‘Abe Sees World War One Echoes in Japan-China tensions,’ 23 January 2014.

3 Alastair Iain Johnston, ‘The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis-Management Theory and Practice in China,’ Naval War College Review 69/1 (2016), 29–72; Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff, ‘Installing a Safety on the “Loaded Gun”? China’s Institutional Reforms, National Security Commission and Sino-Japanese Crisis (In)Stability,’ Journal of Contemporary China 25/98 (2016), 197–215.

4 James L. Schoff, Crisis Management in Japan & the United States (Dulles VA: Brassey’s 2004Schoff, James L., Crisis Management in Japan & the United States (Dulles, VA: Brassey’s 2004) [Google Scholar]); Richard Bush, The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations (Washington, DC: Brookings 2010Bush, Richard, The Perils of Proximity: China-Japan Security Relations(Washington, DC: Brookings 2010) [Google Scholar]); Richard J. Samuels, 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan (Ithaca: Cornell UP 2013Samuels, Richard J., 3.11: Disaster and Change in Japan (Ithaca: Cornell UP 2013) [Google Scholar]); Special Issue (Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches), Japanese Journal of Political Science, 14/2 (2013Shinoda, Tomohito, ‘DPJ’s Political Leadership in Response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident’, Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 243–59. doi:10.1017/S1468109913000054[CrossRef][Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]); Yoichi Funabashi, Japan in Peril? 9 Crisis Scenarios (Hong Kong: CLSA Books 2014Funabashi, Yoichi, Japan in Peril? 9 Crisis Scenarios (Hong Kong: CLSA Books 2014) [Google Scholar]); and Sanaa Yasmin Hafeez, ‘The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises of 2004, 2010, and 2012: A Study of Japanese-Chinese Crisis Management,’ Asia-Pacific Review 22/1 (2015Hafeez, Sanaa Yasmin, ‘The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises of 2004, 2010, and 2012: A Study of Japanese-Chinese Crisis Management’, Asia-Pacific Review 22/1 (2015), 73–99. doi:10.1080/13439006.2015.1038885[Taylor & Francis Online][Google Scholar]), 73–99.

5 Daniel Russel, Maritime Disputes in East Asia: Testimony Before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, 5 February 2014, http://www.state.gov/p/eap/rls/rm/2014/02/221293.htm.

New York Times, ‘Obama says pact obliges US to protect Japan in Islands Fight,’ 24 April 2014.

7 Data from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, 31 October 2016. http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000170838.pdf,

Ministry of Defense, ‘Statistics on scrambles during the first half of FY2016,’ 14 October 2016.

Times of India, ‘China warns Japan against shooting down drones over islands,’ 27 October 2013.

10 South China Morning Post, ‘PLA considers drones for island patrols,’ 13 June 2015.

11 Interviewee A, Tokyo, June 2016. For Chinese accusations, see USNI News, ‘Chinese and Japanese Fighters Clash over ECS,’ 5 July 2016. https://news.usni.org/2016/07/05/chinese-japanese-fighters-clash-east-china-sea.

12 Alexandra Sakaki and Kerstin Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches’ Japanese Journal of Political Science, 14/2 (2013), 156–57.

13 Samantha Hoffman and Peter Mattis, War on the Rocks, ‘Managing the power within: China’s state security commission,’ 18 July 2016, http://warontherocks.com/2016/07/managing-the-power-within-chinas-state-security-commission/; Phillip C. Saunders and Andrew Scobell, eds., PLA Influence on China’s National Security Policymaking (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP 2015).

14 Erickson and Liff, ‘Installing a Safety on the “Loaded Gun”?; David M. Lampton, ‘Xi Jinping and the National Security Commission: Policy Coordination and Political Power’ 24/95 (2015), 759–77; Johnston, ‘The Evolution of Interstate Security Crisis-Management Theory and Practice in China’; author’s discussions with Chinese military officers and government-affiliated scholars, January 2017.

15 For examples, see Special Issue (Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity: In Search of New Approaches), Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013); Samuels, 3.11; and Funabashi, Japan in Peril?

16 For associated literature review, see Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 160–62.

17 Kent Calder, ‘Japanese Foreign Economic Policy Formation: Explaining the Reactive State,’ World Politics 40/4 (1988), 517–41; Gerald L. Curtis, ‘Introduction,’ and Michael Blaker, ‘Evaluating Japanese Diplomatic Performance,’ in Gerald L. Curtis, (ed.), Japan’s Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Coping with Change (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe 1993); Takashi Inoguchi and Purnendra Jain, ‘Beyond Karaoke Diplomacy?’ in Takashi Inoguchi and Purnendra Jain, (eds.), Japan’s Foreign Policy Today: A Reader (New York: Palgrave, 2000), xi–xix.

18 For seminal analyses, see Peter J. Katzenstein, Cultural Norms and National Security: Police and Military in Postwar Japan (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP 1996); Thomas U. Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP 1998); Andrew Oros, Normalizing Japan: Politics, Identity, and the Evolution of Security Practice (Stanford: Stanford UP 2009).

19 Gerald L. Curtis, The Logic of Japanese Politics (New York: Columbia UP 1999), esp. 228–34; Michael J. Green, Japan’s Reluctant Realism: Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power(NY: Palgrave 2003), Ch.2.

20 Yomiuri Shimbun, ‘Abe’s Power Play,’ 7 March 2015.

21 Tomohito Shinoda, Koizumi Diplomacy (Seattle: University of Washington Press 2007). Koizumi’s leadership demonstrated the importance of executive leadership in crises. Under Koizumi, a 2004 Senkaku landing by Chinese nationals was handled effectively. In 2010, political instability, a hands-off prime ministerial response, and a Cabinet reorganization during a similar incident arguably significantly exacerbated the crisis, with lasting political and diplomatic consequences for Sino-Japanese relations, the ECS dispute especially. Hafeez, ‘Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises.’

22 Tatewari gyosei came up repeatedly during research interviews with Japanese and American officials and experts. Directly translated as ‘vertical administration,’ the term refers to vertical segregation and lack of communication and cooperation across ministries and agencies, sometimes active turf wars. For more, see T. J. Pempel, ‘Japanese Strategy under Koizumi,’ in Gilbert Rozman, et al., (eds.), Japanese Strategic Thought Toward Asia (NY: Palgrave 2007), 111–12; Hitoshi Tanaka, Gaiko no Chikara (Tokyo: Nikkei 2009), 226–27; Samuels, 3.11, esp. 8–9, 22–23.

23 Interviewee B, Tokyo, January 2015.

24 Interviewee C, Tokyo, January 2015.

25 See Courtney Purrington, and A. K., ‘Tokyo’s Policy Responses during the Gulf Crisis’, Asian Survey 31/4 (1991), 307–23.

26 The analysis in this paragraph draws on Yoshiki Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community,’ International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence28/4 (2015), 717–33 and interviews in Tokyo, January 2015 and July 2016.

27 Interviewee D, Tokyo, January 2015.

28 Ken Kotani, ‘Japan,’ in Robert Dover, (ed.), Routledge Companion to Intelligence Studies (Milton Park: Routledge 2014), 205–06.

29 Interviewee E, Tokyo, January 2015.

30 Interviewee E, Tokyo, August 2016.

31 Interviewee F, Tokyo, January 2015.

32 Interviewee G, Tokyo, January 2015.

33 Kotani, ‘Japan,’ 206.

34 Interviewees B and H, Tokyo, January 2015.

35 Berger, Cultures of Antimilitarism.

36 Katsumi Ishizuka, ‘The Crisis Management Capability of Japan’s Self Defense Forces for UN Peacekeeping, Counter-Terrorism, and Disaster Relief,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 201–22.

37 Masaru Tamamoto, ‘Trial of an Ideal: Japan’s Debate over the Gulf Crisis,’ World Policy Journal 8/1 (1990), 97.

38 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 166.

39 Hafeez, ‘Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Crises’; Erickson and Liff, ’Installing a Safety on the ‘Loaded Gun’?

40 Euan Graham, ‘Maritime Hotlines in East Asia,’ May 2014, https://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/RSIS_RFQ_Maritime-Hotlines-in-East-Asia_160514_Web.pdf.

41 Author’s interview with maritime operator experienced interacting with Chinese naval vessels, December 2016.

42 Tsuyoshi Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC to wa Nani ka [What is the JNSC?] (Tokyo: Shinchosha 2014), 27.

43 For the seminal English-language analysis of 3.11’s diversified impact on Japan, see Samuels, 3.11. Samuels highlights 3.11’s limited transformational effect. However, recognized response failures influenced Japan’s and alliance managers’ thinking about crisis management deficiencies, which manifested in several important concrete reforms after his book went to print. The impact of 3/11 probably was not sufficient, but likely necessary. On the DPJ’s crisis response, see Tomohito Shinoda, ‘DPJ’s Political Leadership in Response to the Fukushima Nuclear Accident,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 243–59.

44 Samuels, 3.11, 9–16.

45 Yuichiro Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC,’: Nihon no anzen hosho kaigi to Beikoku no NSC [Issues concerning ‘JNSC’: Japan’s security council and the US NSC] (Tokyo: National Diet Library 2006), 1. For a seminal overview of the SC’s origins, see Yasuaki Chijiwa, Kawariyuku Naikaku Anzen Hosho Kiko: Nihon-ban NSC Seiritsu e no Michi [Changing Cabinet Security Organizations: Road to NSC Establishment] (Tokyo: Harashobo 2015), Ch.3.

46 Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC’ no kadai, 2; Boei Handobukku [Handbook for Defense] (Tokyo: Asagumo 2016), 25.

47 Interviewee E, January 2015.

48 Hitoshi, ‘Nihon-ban NSC’ no kadai, 3.

49 Various interviews; Tokyo, January 2015, July 2016 and August 2016.

50 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 161. See also Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC,’ 44–56.

51 Mainichi Shimbun, ‘SDF officer could become assistant deputy chief cabinet secretary for 1st Time.’ 17 April 2015. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150417p2a00m0na020000c.html.

52 For seminal English-language analysis of Koizumi’s foreign policy, see Shinoda, Koizumi Diplomacy.

53 Defense of Japan 2006 (Tokyo: Japan Defense Agency, 2006Japan Defense Agency, Defense of Japan 2006 (Tokyo: Japan Defense Agency 2006).http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/pdf/2006/2-3-1.pdf [Google Scholar]), 125–133. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/publ/w_paper/pdf/2006/2-3-1.pdf

54 Richard J. Samuels, ‘Politics, Security Policy, and Japan’s Cabinet Legislation Bureau: Who Elected These Guys, Anyway?’ JPRI Working Paper No. 99 (2004). http://www.jpri.org/publications/workingpapers/wp99.html

55 Yuki Tatsumi, Japan Times, ‘First step to a national security strategy,’ 23 October 2004.

56 The seminal comparative study in the Japanese context is Matsuda Yasuhiro, (ed.), NSC Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi: Kiki Kanri/Anpo Seisaku Togo Mekanizumu no Hikaku Kenkyu [NSC: Comparative Research on Crisis Management and Security Policy Integration Mechanisms] (Tokyo: Sairyusha 2009).

57 Kotani, ‘Japan,’ 206–07.

58 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 38–42.

59 Sheila A. Smith, Japan’s New Politics (NY: Council on Foreign Relations Press 2014), 24–25.

60 Ministry of Defense, ‘NATIONAL DEFENSE PROGRAM GUIDELINES for FY 2011 and beyond,’ 17 December 2010. http://www.mod.go.jp/e/d_act/d_policy/pdf/guidelinesFY2011.pdf.

61 Hitoshi Tanaka, ‘Hatoyama’s Resignation and Japan’s Foreign Policy,’ East Asia Insights 5/3 (2010), http://www.jcie.or.jp/insights/5-3.html.

62 Michael J. Green, ‘Japan’s Confused Revolution,’ The Washington Quarterly 33/1 (2010), 9.

63 Smith, Japan’s New Politics, 24–25.

64 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 124–30.

65 Ellis Krauss, ‘Crisis Management, LDP, and DPJ Style,’ Japanese Journal of Political Science 14/2 (2013), 177–99.

66 Adam P. Liff, ‘Japan’s Defense Policy: Abe the Evolutionary.’ The Washington Quarterly 38/2 (2015), 79–99.

67 For major Japanese-language analyses of JNSC’s origins and significance, see Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC; Ken Kotani, ‘Nihon-ban Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi (NSC) no Kinoteki Tokucho’ [National Security Council of Japan and Its Functional Features],’ Kokusai Anzen Hosho 42/4 (2015), 61–75; Chijiwa, Kawariyuku Naikaku Anzen Hosho Kiko.

68 Defense of Japan 2014 (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense 2014Ministry of Defense, Defense of Japan 2014 (Tokyo: Ministry of Defense 2014). [Google Scholar]), 105.

69 Defense of Japan 2014.

70 Abe named former vice-minister for foreign affairs Shotaro Yachi as Japan’s first national security advisor. Yachi meets regularly with other countries’ national security advisors, and was also the main player in secret negotiations in secret negotiations with Beijing leading up to the November 2014 four-point statements and subsequent Sino-Japanese APEC summit – ending China’s 2-year ban on summitry.

71 Kotani, ‘Japan.’

72 See Article 6, Clause 2 of Kokka Anzen Hosho Kaigi Secchiho [National Security Council Establishment Law], http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S61/S61HO071.html.

73 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community.’

74 ibid, 718; 727–30. Kobayashi notes the exception is IAS’ (MoFA) head, who still visits the PM without the DCI.

75 Interviewee D, Tokyo, January 2015.

76 Email exchange with Interviewee I, July 2016; Interviewee J, Tokyo, July 2016.

77 Defense of Japan 2014, 105.

78 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community.’

79 Japan Times, ‘Japan coast guard deploys 12 ships to patrol Senkakus,’ 4 April 2016.

80 Japan Times, ‘Defense ministry bureaucrats to lose their rank superiority over SDF officers,’ 10 June 2015.

81 The Japan News, ‘Rapid-Response Headquarters to Be Launched to Help GSDF Act in Crises,’ 17 June 2015.

82 The Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation (Washington, DC: Department of Defense 2015Department of Defense, The Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation(Washington, DC: Department of Defense 2015).http://www.defense.gov/pubs/20150427_–_GUIDELINES_FOR_US-JAPAN_DEFENSE_COOPERATION_FINALCLEAN.pdf [Google Scholar]), http://www.defense.gov/pubs/20150427_–_GUIDELINES_FOR_US-JAPAN_DEFENSE_COOPERATION_FINAL&CLEAN.pdf. The allies often exercised but never activated the BCM in a real-world crisis – even in cases of North Korean nuclear or missile tests, or when urgent military coordination in which thousands of lives were at stake, such as Operational Tomodachi in 2011. The apparent precondition was armed attack (war). Washington had requested activation but Tokyo refused due to concerns about domestic and foreign backlash.

83 Kyodo, ‘Japan defense force to hold drill to handle maritime ‘Gray Zone’ case,’ 7 July 2015.

84 Japan Times, ‘Japan eyes permanent joint HQ for SDF,’ 13 March 2016.

85 Yuki Tatsumi. East Asia Forum, ‘Can Japan’s national security strategy outlive Abe?’ 18 November 2014. http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2014/11/18/can-japans-national-security-strategy-outlive-abe/.

86 Kobayashi, ‘Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community,’ 731.

87 There is some space for ex post Diet approval in certain emergencies. See Alexandra Sakaki and Kerstin Lukner, ‘Japan’s uncertain security environment and changes in its legislative‒executive relations,’ West European Politics 40/1 (2017), 139–60.

88 Liff, ‘Japan’s Defense Policy.’

89 Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ‘Cabinet Decision on Development of Seamless Security Legislation to Ensure Japan’s Survival and Protect Its People,’ 1 July 2014, http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/nsp/page23e_000273.html.

90 Guidelines for US-Japan Defense Cooperation, 16.

91 Corresponding author’s interviews, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, June–July 2016.

92 Adam P. Liff and Andrew S. Erickson, AJW by Asahi Shimbun, ‘Japan-China crisis management–the urgent need for air-sea contact mechanism,’ 9 July 2015.

93 Defense News, ‘Interview: Adm. Tomohisa Takei, chief of staff, Japanese maritime self-defense force,’ 30 March 2016.

94 AJW by Asahi Shimbun, ‘Chinese foreign minister won’t take Kishida’s calls during N. Korean Crisis,’ 10 February 2016.

95 Armacost, Michael, The National Security Archive, ‘US ambassador Michael armacost cable to the state department,’ 14 March 1991. http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB175/japan2-13.pdf

96 Sunohara, Nihon-ban NSC, 3.

97 Combined total of four- and nine-minister meetings. Boei Handobukku, 25.

98 Xing Qu, ‘Four Features of the International Situation in 2012,’ in Guoji Wenti Yanjiusuo, Ed. CIIS Blue Book on International Situation and China’s Foreign Affairs (Beijing: World Affairs Press 2013). http://www.ciis.org.cn/english/2013-06/04/content_6002574.htm.

99 Sakaki and Lukner, ‘Japan’s Crisis Management amid Growing Complexity,’ 171.

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Additional author information

Adam P. Liff

Adam P. Liff is assistant professor of East Asian International Relations at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies (SGIS) and Associate-in-Research at Harvard University’s Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. His research website is https://adampliff.com/.

Andrew S. Erickson

Andrew S. Erickson is a professor of Strategy at the US Naval War College and associate-in-research at Harvard University’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies. He maintains the research websites www.andrewerickson.com and www.chinasignpost.com.

Adam P. Liff & Andrew S. Erickson

Pages 1-35 | Published online: 10 Mar 2017