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Japan’s Security Environment

When appraising Japan’s security, attention tends to focus on developments in East Asia, such as tension on the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan straits, or at the Soviet military build-up in the Far East during the Cold War. Yet three critical events, which have had a defining impact on the Japanese national psyche regarding national security, have all taken place outside East Asia.

The first was the oil crisis triggered by the Yom Kippur War in 1973, as a result of which the Japanese public started to feel an acute sense of vulnerability. The second is the Gulf War of 1990-91 because Japan’s legal framework was unprepared to deal with international crisis of that magnitude. Except for mine sweepers, dispatched after hostilities ended, the Japanese government could not dispatch personnel to the Middle East. Although Tokyo made a substantial financial contribution in support of the war effort by coalition forces, in the aftermath of the war Tokyo continued to feel a strong sense of humiliation that, despite constitutional constraints, active participation by Japanese personnel in non-combative activities should have been attempted. After all it was in the Gulf War that the vanquished side of the WWII, namely Japan and Germany had no options other than to provide financial assistance.

Third, are the events of September 11, 2002. It became very clear to people in Japan that these terrorists were ready and willing to detonate weapons of mass destruction. It is horrifying that the notion of deterrence may mean nothing to these terrorists who have been displaying disgusting self-righteousness in aspiring to martyrdom. Thus, in Japan that the terrorist acts that took place on September 11th evidently are not only perceived as an outrageous attack against the United States, Japan’s ally, but also as a serious threat to all mankind.

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