Mil News Japan's Military Marks 50th Anniversary


Mi General
MI.Net Member
Feb 29, 2004
When Japan's military was reborn after World War II, tens of thousands of demonstrators staged violent protests and debate raged over whether even a strictly defensive force violated the new pacifist constitution.

That was 50 years ago - but the debate still rages over whether the country has broken its vow to never again maintain ``land, sea and air forces'' that could be used to wage war.

As Japan's Self-Defense Forces approach their golden anniversary this week, they are one of the most modern, best-equipped militaries in the world. Japanese troops have been dispatched on humanitarian missions from Cambodia to the Golan Heights, and several hundred soldiers are now in Iraq on this country's biggest - and riskiest - mission since Tokyo's surrender ended the Pacific War in 1945.

Officials say they have no plans for special events on Thursday, which is the anniversary of the enactment of the 1954 law under which the SDF was created. Instead, they will hold their ceremonies in accordance with another landmark date in November.

High-profile demonstrations of Japan's military strength remain a taboo.

Though most Japanese were born after World War II, a general feeling of pacifism and a distrust of the military lingers. Japan's neighbors, especially China and the Koreas, also are highly suspicious of any attempts by Japan to rebuild its military might.

Even so, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has championed efforts to clear the slate and during his three years in office has actively sought ways to put the troops to use.

In a show of support for President Bush, Koizumi ordered several hundred Japanese soldiers to begin setting up camp near the impoverished Iraqi desert city of Samawah in January. The troops have since been engaged in what officials describe as a humanitarian project focusing on rebuilding the area's devastated infrastructure.

The deployment is a milestone.

Although the troops' first foray abroad was an international peacekeeping mission to Cambodia in 1992, this is their most dangerous operation yet. After months of debate, a special law was enacted by Parliament that approved the dispatch, but only to ``non-combat'' areas and for strictly humanitarian projects.

No Japanese soldier has killed or been killed in combat since 1945, and public support for the Iraq mission remains weak, with about half for and half against, due to the potential dangers.

``I'm against it,'' said Tomoko Okazaki, 31, a company employee. ``It's a very dangerous mission because we don't know what they will be drawn into.''

Japan's largest opposition party is challenging Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democrats in parliamentary elections on July 11 with attacks on the dispatch. Katsuya Okada, head of the opposition Democrats, recently said the deployment was ``constitutionally problematic.''

Many still feel that way about the existence of the troops per se.

Japan's government justifies the SDF by arguing that, while renouncing the right to attack other countries, the nation still must be able to defend itself. They stress that the SDF is therefore strongly defense-oriented - it does not maintain aircraft carriers or refueling planes that could be seen as bolstering its ability to project its power.

At 240,000, the number of active duty troops is also relatively small - roughly equal to Italy or Brazil.

Still, Japan's military is a force to be reckoned with.

According to the Center for Defense Information, a private think tank based in Washington, D.C., Japan's defense budget, about $47 billion, is the fourth largest in the world, following the United States, Russia and China. Japan's defense outlays are easily larger than that of Britain and France, and roughly three times the defense budget of neighboring South Korea.

Experts note that much of the money goes to pay high salaries. Although the official budget figures for China and Japan are similar, China has more than 10 times as many troops.

But the budget also reflects a penchant for expensive hardware.

Japan has several hundred fighter jets, a squadron of P-3C submarine chasers to keep watch on the Russians and Chinese, a fleet of destroyers - including several with state-of-the-art Aegis radar systems - and a fairly advanced fleet of conventionally powered submarines.

Last year, Japan launched its first spy satellites in a multibillion dollar program aimed at monitoring North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

Source: Modoracle

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