Column Foreign Affairs and National Security 2019.04.17
There is unprecedented opposition to the 'International Peace Cooperation (hereafter, IPC)'. IPC is a term coined by Japan's law and policy circles. It almost means deployment of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) for international peace operations, such as United Nations Peace-Keeping Operations (UNPKO).
SDF deployment overseas began in the early 1990s following the end of the Cold War, amid a growing global consciousness of wars and conflicts, such as the Gulf War and Cambodian Civil War. The decision to dispatch SDF troops was based on a political stance to avoid becoming a free rider in an international community in which each country was putting forth efforts to promote peace and security. It also reflected the fear of becoming isolated from the international community because of inaction, despite being a major economic power.
In other words, the overseas deployment of SDF started as Japan's international contribution to gain the trust and acceptance of other countries and raise Japan's credibility within the international community. Japan's current attitude toward IPC is an extension of this effort. That is, Japan's basic perception of IPC is to contribute to the international community, which work together to help countries and citizens enduring miserable condition.
For this reason, the domestic landscape of Japan is such that the public is unacceptable of trouble or casualties among SDF troops during peace operations, let alone incidents wherein troops could injure others. Simply because those activities are understood as that those are not conducted under Japan's interest, but someone else's one. The prevailing thought is that Japan should not be on the giving or receiving end of casualties during a voluntary--and unnecessary--international contribution.
Recently, there are some opinions that neither of SDF nor Japan can afford to take on such efforts. That is, why should economically distressed Japan send troops across the world to a country that undergoes repeated conflicts? SDF officers have often speak as, "we do not have the capacity to allocate resources to such assistance given the harsh realities of the current security environment in areas surrounding Japan."
In reality, the description of the section on IPC in the National Defense Program Guidelines for FY 2019 and beyond has been scaled down considerably. Japan cannot simultaneously contribute to the international community while adopting to the increasingly severe security environment in East Asia. Although these opinions may appear understandable in Japan, they are based on misconceptions.
"International contribution (in Japanese Kokusai-Kouken)" is not a term that is generally accepted in such other languages than Japanese. The deployment of the military for peace operations is commonly referred to as "international engagement (in Japanese Kokusai-Kanyo)."
The major difference between "engagement" and "contribution" involves whether one recognizes himself or herself as an interested actor/stakeholder or as an external one. In other words, "engagement" signifies participating with the main group, whereas "contribution" applies to helping as an outsider.
Japan's perception of its IPC policy is basically that of its contributions as an outsider toward international efforts. This is the reason why the discussions on IPC do not progress in Japan. However, Japan should change its mind to consider such activities as methods by which its policies for international engagement can achieve the intended results.
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit relevant departments and sections in Australia's peace operations. Australia has deployed military and civilian personnel including police for UNPKOs and other peace operations in various parts of the world. Lately, it has also become the flagbearer for promoting the gender equality and women, peace and security in peace operations. Australia is known for its progressive peacekeeping initiatives, which include conducting regular research on the attainment of peace and creating a personnel dispatch system in cooperation with NGOs and developmental agencies for post-conflict stabilization of target areas.
Australia has traditionally put forth efforts toward peace operations, which include not only initiatives for neighboring regions such as East Timor and the Solomon Islands but also deployment of the military and police to the Middle East. However, like Japan, the country no longer deploys troops; its focus is the placement of commanding officers and headquarters personnel for peace operations. Currently, Australia sends personnel to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS); furthermore, some deployed SDF officers report to Australian military officers.
Australia also engages in military education and training in neighboring countries, such as Fiji, that deploys troops for peace operations. The initiatives provide training opportunities for peacekeeping troops in developing countries and fortify their capabilities so that they can execute their duties smoothly. Australia has also systematized a mobile training team (hereafter, MTT) for this purpose. Furthermore, Australia will send Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel to serve as commanders and staff officers to lead missions with these trained neighboring countries' troops in some cases. A typical example of such effort is Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) deployed to Sinai Peninsula, where 2 personnel of SDF are about to join. The mission is directed under the commanding officer of ADF general with Fiji and other countries' troops.
Such efforts are regarded as part of Australia's policies for international engagement. The focal point for Australia, the regional power in the Oceania, is its sphere of influence spanning the area encompassing the South Pacific islands to Southeast Asia. In this context, Australia's military education and training programs affirm its position in this region and send a message to other parts of the world that it has close military and political ties with other countries in the region.
It is also a good way for Australia--a country that is unable or unwilling to deploy its own troops for peace operations--to expand its pool of deployable troops and contribute toward UN efforts to secure highly trained troops, given the reality that developing countries supply many of the deployed troops for peace operations. Fiji, for example, deployed troops for peacekeeping operations in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Golan Heights, even after Japan withdrew SDF following the deterioration in security caused by the escalating Syrian civil war. Fiji currently deploys more than 400 personnel for the several UN peacekeeping operations.
Thus, Australia engages in its "international peace cooperation activities" through an effective policy that contributes to the peace and security of the international community by strengthening its bilateral relationships, affirming its presence within its sphere of influence, and enhancing the quality of peace operations. A staff of international policy of Australian Department of Defence has referred to its commitment to these initiatives as a "smart pledge." This expression reveals a basic attitude toward seeking a polished policy in the best interests of Australia and suggesting that it approaches these initiatives with an interest and sense of duty for international peace and security issues.
Australia is an important ally for Japan. The Australian Army and Japan SDF have also increased cooperation in actual operations by establishing the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and participating in each other's training sessions and joint efforts for capacity-building assistance. Australia also views Japan as a country with which it must strengthen relations.
There is still open question of how Japan should proceed with IPC in the context of Japan-Australia relations. In reality, Japan has made successful contributions to UN peace operations in Cambodia and East Timor, where Australia has played a leading role. Moreover, Japan and Australia worked closely together in Samawah, Iraq. Currently, the two countries are working together in South Sudan, as described previously. In this way, Japan already has experience working alongside Australia via IPC activities.
From this perspective, there is room to rethink IPC in the context of Japan-Australia relations. For example, Japan should consider SDF participation in Australia's engagement policies in its sphere of influence (e.g., the education and training of the Fiji military for peace operations). Such an initiative could strengthen ties with Australia as well as with the countries receiving education and training. At the same time, it would also expand the range of international peace operations and contribute to overall peace and security. Further, it would serve as an opportunity for SDF personnel to learn about and enrich their international activities. Another important angle for Japan would be that the policy of engagement would send a strong message to China, a country that has been expanding its influence in Oceania.
In other words, Japan must temporarily step away from the mindset that it needs to contribute something to peace operations (i.e., contribute to the international community) and consider how it can utilize IPC activities to achieve the best outcome relevant to the national interests. When the focus is changed in this way, new IPC initiatives may emerge. In fact, the SDF has already provided capacity building assistance program in areas around Australia, such as Papua New Guinea, but the efforts are basically provided as bi-lateral aid activities. The effects can be enhanced by redesigning the initiatives within the context of strengthening Australia-Japan relations and promoting cooperative work.
On the other hand, IPC intrinsically assumes ideals such as the spirit of mutual assistance and the universal values of humanity. In the early 2000s, when the discussions for IPC were brisk, a report of the Government Advisory Panel of IPC (2002) ended up with the statement that "(To work on) for the pursuit of peace, which is the universal task for humankind" which is to become the philosophy behind IPC.
What is important when considering IPC activities? It is not something that we regard them as 'international contributions' which is separated from Japan's own interest, but rather it is something that we should look for smart initiatives that balance ideals of IPC with fruits of our efforts--that is, to "utilize IPC activities as a means of policy implementation."
This report was translated from the Japanese transcript of Dr. Honda's column.