Enhanced Security Education Would Inspire More Japanese People to Fight for Their Country

Seiji Fuji

China and Russia are constantly considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons

 Yoshiko Sakurai’s column, “For a Strong, Beautiful Nation,” is published in The Sankei Shimbun newspaper. The March 4 article was titled, “We Must Not be Nuclear Bystanders.” It read:

“In his annual address to the Federal Assembly on February 29, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, ‘The strategic nuclear forces are on full combat alert and the ability to use them is assured.’ He said Russia would retaliate against countries that struck its mainland – at a scale several times larger than the attack – and that it possesses sufficient offensive weapons.” “On February 28, the British Financial Times clarified Putin’s true intentions behind his repeated nuclear intimidation in ‘Leaked Russian military files reveal criteria for nuclear strike.’” “According to the FT, these 29 confidential documents were produced from 2008 to 2014, and include detailed information about training for a Chinese invasion. The article drew particular attention to Russian military training conducted to use tactical nuclear weapons in the initial stage of a dispute with a major power.” “The documents clearly specify concrete examples for using nuclear weapons, such as if an enemy invades Russian territory, or if 20% of Russia’s ballistic missile submarines are destroyed. The article says that experts believe these criteria are less strict than those officially acknowledged by Russia in the past.” “China and Russia have similar views on nuclear weapons. The People’s Liberation Army field operations guide is premised on a military operation in Taiwan, and includes a section titled, ‘Tactics for fighting in environments contaminated by radioactivity.’ This shows that China assumes nuclear weapons would be used in an attack on Taiwan. Taiwan is in the most dangerous circumstances today.” “For many years, China has kept up the premise that its nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence, and that it would not be the first to use them. However, China is increasing the pace of its nuclear expansion, including rapidly growing numbers of small-sized tactical nuclear weapons installed on high-precision missiles. We can only assume China is expecting a scenario in which it pre-emptively utilizes nuclear weapons.” “Sugio Takahashi is head of the Defense Policy Research Office in the National Institute for Defense Studies. In his book Outline of Modern Warfare (Namiki Shobo), he identifies another facet of the Taiwan crisis as a war that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot afford to lose. A CCP defeat would destabilize and destroy its system of government. The United States, which is in confrontation with China, has been leader of the democratic world, and it also cannot afford defeat. The conflict could become a large-scale war, leading to the use of nuclear weapons.”

 The term “strategic nuclear weapons” refers to nuclear arms used in direct attacks between countries, such as the U.S. and Russia, while putting their lives on the line. “Tactical nuclear weapons” are powerful weapons actually employed in battle. In Putin’s statement excerpted by Sakurai, his use of the phrase “strategic nuclear forces” seems to be a direct attempt to restrain the U.S. In addition, Russia and China are considering the possibility of using tactical nuclear weapons to gain advantages in regional conflicts. When comparing these two types of arms, I think there is a much greater chance that tactical nuclear weapons will actually be employed.
 Sakurai also quotes from Takahashi’s Outline of Modern Warfare. His analysis says we have reached the end of temporary international stability during the post-Cold War era, and that we have entered an age of competition between major powers, mainly the U.S. and China. The Cold War was a time of confrontation between democratic, capitalist nations against socialist powers. Capitalism won an overwhelming economic victory, but in terms of politics, China’s successful creation of state-led capitalism means democracy did not achieve an overwhelming victory over authoritarianism. In fact, increasing digital transformation (DX) has made it easier for authoritarian states that want to centrally control their citizens, leading to confrontation between these “digital authoritarian” nations versus countries implementing DX in a democratic fashion.

Japan needs just one third of China’s fighting power

 Takashi says another factor in Sino-American contention is geopolitical conflict over spheres of influence, which is the most important security issue facing Japan. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a geopolitical attempt to control China’s traditional “heartland.” It is also trying to change the status quo through regional pressure in the East China Sea, South China Sea, and Taiwan. The East and South China Seas are a military “gray zone,” a place in between war and peace. Since the People’s Republic of China was established, its absolute mission has been to integrate Taiwan, resulting in a tense situation. It is highly likely that this gray zone could become the site of an actual conflict. Considering this context, Takahashi points out that a Sino-American conflict near Taiwan might develop into a large-scale war including nuclear weapons. From this we can surmise the risk of strategic nuclear weapons being used – not tactical nuclear weapons – and it is certainly no exaggeration to say that East Asia is the most dangerous region in the world today.
 Sakurai continues her column by explaining that Japan should abandon its “bystander” attitude in the risky East Asian region. To oppose the Chinese and Russian threats, she says Japan should draft security policy as an involved party in the nuclear weapons issue. Particularly worthy of attention is the following portion, excerpted from Takahashi’s book:

“We must be aware that the U.S. and Japan have an entirely different strategy than China. Japan and the U.S. want to maintain the current situation, while China must change the status quo.” “A general rule of thumb states that an attacker must have 3:1 military superiority over its enemy to break through. As the U.S. and Japan strive to maintain the existing circumstances in Taiwan, their urgent task is to have at least one third of China’s military power.”

 Takahashi recommends the “net assessment” method for considering what a rival is doing and coming up with strategies for different actions. China’s East Asian military force is vastly more powerful than both the Japanese and American forces in that region. Of course, the U.S. excels in terms of overall fighting power, but its forces are spread around the globe with a mere portion of its military strength dedicated to Asia. By using the net assessment method, Takahashi writes that Japan should devote efforts to maintaining the current situation and discouraging China from changing the status quo. This asymmetry would provide advantages to Japan; namely, Japan could cause a deadlock by simply obstructing the Chinese military from crossing the ocean to Taiwan. In that case, the U.S. could focus its global fighting strength in East Asia. Japan must step up its defense spending to ensure sufficient fighting power to hinder the Chinese military according to the 3:1 rule. Defense expenditures of 10 trillion yen would equal 2% of the gross domestic product (GDP), a ratio of 1:2.1 with China, which fulfills the one-third requirement. The Fumio Kishida government announced in December 2022 its plan to raise defense spending to 2% of the GDP. Takahashi says this makes sense, and I agree as well.

Japanese people assume safety costs nothing, like water or air

 Sakurai writes that Japan’s safety depends heavily on its alliance with the U.S. This is true, but I also believe a nation should defend itself, then ask its allies for assistance when necessary. According to a global public opinion poll conducted of men and women aged 18 and older in 79 countries, just 13.2% of Japanese respondents said they would fight for their country if a war broke out. This was the lowest ratio among the countries surveyed, and demonstrates the degree to which Japanese people have lost their awareness of defense. For instance, Vietnam was 96%, and even Lithuania (the second-lowest score) was 32.8%. The question is, what should we do?
 This issue is explored in Tsuneyasu Takeda’s article from the April 2024 issue of Hanada magazine, “Now is an Appropriate Time to Discuss Conscription.” Takeda begins by analyzing the factors contributing to this low level of consciousness:

“Japanese citizens’ poor awareness of national defense has been a topic of conversation for some time. The most significant factor is Japan’s defeat in World War II.” “Although the U.S. did beat Japan, it was a challenging fight. This is why the ‘spiritual’ disarmament of Japan was a major part of its occupation policy. During its occupation, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers formed the Japan Teachers’ Union as an organization to take over its educational policy, resulting in erroneous ‘peace education’ and the War Guilt Information Program (WGIP) that continued for dozens of years even after the occupation ended. This education was conducted not by Americans, but by Japanese citizens.” “I think this defeat is why Japanese people loath not only war, but all things that remind them of warfare.” “Many Japanese hold the mistaken belief that peace will continue as long as we maintain no military according to Article 9 of the constitution. They assume safety costs nothing, just like water or air, which is also due to Japan being an island nation.”

 However, the global situation is changing in major ways. China is rapidly enhancing its fighting power, and has declared its intent to use military force if necessary to integrate Taiwan. Russia disregarded the United Nations Charter to invade Ukraine. How should Japan alter its mindset about defense in these circumstances? Takeda writes as follows:

“The answer is constitutional revision.” “We must directly confront the issue of Japan’s security for constitutional change. It will be meaningful for Japan to understand the situation it is in, and to fully discuss how to protect the country. It is likely that, if we revised Article 9 for the sake of national defense, this amendment would itself be a significant way to inspire a better awareness of national defense.” “In addition to revising Article 9, I am sure many people feel antipathy about the suggestion of reviving military conscription.” “Of the 169 countries with militaries today, 64 conscript their citizens, a ratio of nearly 40%. This means countries with conscription systems are not unusual at all; it is a common practice worldwide.” “There is a global trend of more nations establishing conscription systems, including those in regions with a high possibility of war. And considering the clearly growing military tension in East Asia, I think now is an appropriate time to discuss the topic of conscription in Japan.” “Although few Japanese people answered that they would defend Japan of their own free will, this question is meaningless in a country that does not conscript its citizens.” “Japanese people cannot fight because they have never received military training.” “In fact, it makes sense that many people answered ‘no’ in Japan, a country without military conscription.” “I propose a system in which high school and university graduates are obligated to become Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) reserve candidates while holding down jobs.”
Takeda says Japan takes applications from regular citizens who want to become reserve candidates, writing, “Those who pass the examination participate in 50 days of training over three years. When they complete this training, they become JSDF reserve officials who serve terms of three years, with five training days per year.”

To ensure peace, we must learn about war

 Takeda states, “Then we would stand at the threshold to finally talking about defense and selecting from two choices: fighting, or not fighting.” This is one way of thinking, but I believe we could also change our mindset through education spanning all the way until university. Former Japan Air Self-Defense Force General Kunio Orita surveyed students taking his university class by asking them if they would fight. At first, just 15% responded that they would. But on the last day of class, that number jumped to 79%. Japan has renounced war, but that does not mean war has renounced Japan. We can inspire students to think differently by teaching them fundamental information about nations, citizenship, human rights, nuclear deterrence, the UN, and other security-related topics.
 No military or security research is taking place in the Japanese academic world, which holds to the doctrine of extreme peace education. The Science Council of Japan once declared that it would not study military topics. We cannot hope to ensure peace just by praying for it. Young people must learn from extensive research about why war occurs and how to prevent it. For example, I think it would be ideal for them to start by reading books such as What Japanese People Should Know About the JSDF and Defense (TATSUMI PUBLISHING), written by the aforementioned Takahashi. I think now is the time for Japan to consider consistent security education, from compulsory schooling through high school and university.

March 14 (Thursday), 5:00 p.m.