GFJ Commentary

February 22, 2018 

A New Significance of Joining of the Self Defense Forces

in the US Military Sanctions against North Korea


As the US military sanctions against North Korea come to be a distinct possible, the supportive activities of the Self Defense Forces of Japan for the United States Armed Forces is also having an air of authenticity. In Japan, questions of military actions of the Self Defense Forces and its sphere of activity have been discussed mainly in the context of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. In addition, it may be useful to look at this issue from a different angle.

Little attention has been payed to potentiality of Japan to assume responsibility as one of ‘the world’s policemen,’ although peacekeeping operations in post-conflict areas have been often referred to the Japanese Government. Historically, the United Nations was planned for maintaining public peace and security of international society by assigning special tasks of ‘the worlds’ policemen’ to five main victor nations of the Allied Powers in the WWII. Hence, the five seats of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council were provided for them: the status of the permanent members was conferred as a quid pro quo for obligation to fulfil their honorable missions. It can be said that within the framework of the UN, privilege is accompanied by responsibility.

Since the very start, however, stern realities have disappointed these optimistic expectations. The Soviet Union, in spite of having a seat of the permanent members, had occupied and subjugated not a few neighboring countries by its prominent military power with defying international laws. Therefore, the Soviet Union had been regarded as a ferocious ‘world’s outlaw’ deviating from a creditable ‘world’s policeman.’ The People’s Republic of China, who sat on one of the chairs of the permanent members in 1971 in place of Taiwan on the grounds of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, has been no less lawless than the Soviet Union. The behavior of China, who has been ignoring the South China Sea Arbitration, is just the opposite to that of the noble guardians of peace.

The present situation of international society is far removed from what was expected in the original plan of the UN, as it is indicated by the fact that China and Russia have supported North Korea secretly and stealthily. This means serious dysfunction of the maintenance of international peace and security; therefore, every nation has been forced to expose themselves to the danger that they miserably fall victims to violence of lawless countries; the same may be true of the high seas and “the common heritage of mankind” under international laws.

Considering the lack of effective mechanisms against violence, it seems to be wise that we argue how to improve the international security system in order to protect every country and the common spaces from any kind of illegal infringement; as the United Nations General Assembly Resolution above shows the precedent that the General Assembly has the appointive power over the permanent members of the UNSC, it may be reasonable that any of ‘ the world’s policemen’ who has fallen into ‘the world’s outlaw’ should be resigned from the permanent members. And if the United States cannot bear excessive cost as ‘the leading world’s policeman’ any more, some kind of ‘international collective police system,’ within which more member states share the tasks to enforce international laws and to fight for justice, should be designed.

Foreseeing the course of international society and particularly anticipating new assignments of the permanent members of the UNCS, whose number of seats has been discussed from time to time, it may be high marks for Japan to participate in the US military sanctions against North Korea. Because, only the countries who well understand the duties and roles of ‘the world’s policemen’ can take on the responsibility of the permanent members.

Furthermore, in the view of the recent strategy of China, the importance of this matter cannot be overemphasized. Actually, Xi Jinping, the president of China and the leader of the ruling Communist Party, has been reiterating his ambitious objective on the pretext of “the Chinese Dream,” which practically means the reconstruction of the ancient hegemonistic order. Thus, it is quite conceivable that China has attempted to use the North Korea crisis skillfully as stepping stone to realize “the Chinese Dream.”

Needless to say, however, the present nation-state system, based on the principles of the rule of law, of self-determination of peoples, and of the sovereign equality, is far superior to the china-centric hierarchic order. Confronted with the North Korea crisis, we now seem to stand at the crossroads: should we humankind choose the right course to ethical progress of the international system, or go along with the selfish Chinese plan? From this point of view, joining of the Self Defense Forces in the US military sanctions against North Korea will be a matter of great significance not only for Japan but also for the future of international society.

(This is an English translation of the article written by KURANISHI Masako, Political Scientist, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Giron-Hyakushutsu (Hundred Views in Full Perspective)” of GFJ on December 1, 2017.)