Into the Grey Zone: Ethical Implications of Overseas Japanese Security Deployments

Abstract

The Liberal-Democratic Party government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe passed bills in the Japanese Diet in 2015, which reinterpreted Article 9 of the 1947 Constitution; this allows the Japanese Self Defense Forces to participate in collective self-defence. The SDF could now potentially engage in conventional military operations with allied forces in future, but other aspects of the legislation also consider possible SDF engagement in ‘grey zone’ operations. The scenario for such operations envisions the SDF responding to or deterring occupation of Japanese-administered islands by hostile foreign paramilitary forces. This shift in security policy, accompanied by annual increases in defence spending, demonstrates how the Japanese government has sought to address the complex security environment of the 21st century, where operations short of war have become the prevalent form of armed conflict. This aims to strengthen Japan’s own territorial integrity, but Japanese security policy has also been pursued further afield. The Abe government has actively deployed the SDF and Coast Guard in the greater Indo-Pacific, training with regional security forces, and participating in multi-national anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean. Amid escalation of tensions between Iran and the erratic Trump Administration, there are now plans for the SDF to be part of a coalition of US-led maritime surveillance patrols in the Strait of Hormuz. However, this risks the SDF being drawn into a ‘grey zone’ conflict in the Persian Gulf, an ethical hazard where Japan might follow its American ally into a military operation of dubious status under international and constitutional law.



Author Information
Craig Mark, Kyoritsu Women's University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2020
Stream: Ethics - Ethics, Law, and Justice

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