Japan and Flexible Response

While the Japanese government believes that Japan has the right to engage in collective self-defense with partner nations, actually doing so would violate the county’s constitution, based on the government’s current interpretation. Resolving that inconsistency could have great effect on Japan’s potential responses to regional crises and contingencies, said Ian Rinehart, Asia analyst with the Congressional Research Service, on Tuesday. Presently, the Japan Self-Defense Forces cannot come to the aid of US ships or aircraft that come under fire outside Japan’s territory. With the change, the JSDF could join in air and sea defense networks for containing adversaries or protecting civilian traffic, such as in a Taiwan Strait or a Korean Peninsula scenario, and could also participate in US operations based on the AirSea Battle concept, said Rinehart during an East-West Center-sponsored seminar on US-Japan security cooperation in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. While US and Japanese command and control assets are co-located in Japan, such as at Yokota Air Base, joint command is an entirely different and more tricky issue to work out, said Yuki Tatsumi, East Asia analyst for the Stimson Center at the event. (For more seminar coverage, see Collective Self Defense, Japan, and the US Alliance.)