The Suga Doctrine: Ethical Issues in Contemporary Japanese Foreign and Defense Policy

Abstract

In 2016, former Japanese Prime Minister Abe declared the strategic objective of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’. This concept has become standard diplomatic rhetoric shared among Japan’s regional allies, concerned with China’s rising hegemonic challenge. Abe’s successor Yoshihide Suga indicated Japanese foreign and defense policy will continue along this more assertive direction, termed by some scholars as the ‘Abe Doctrine’. One of the final acts of the Abe cabinet in September 2020 was to move closer towards possible acquisition of cruise missiles, and development of hypersonic missiles. The new Suga cabinet proceeded to explore complementary acquisition of more sea-based anti-ballistic missile defenses, while continuing the Abe Doctrine’s approach of annual record increases to the defense budget. However, after resistance from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s more pacifistically-inclined coalition partner Komeito, the Suga government is less likely to proceed with developing an offensive strike capacity in the short-term, over concerns this may violate Article 9 of the Constitution. The latest National Defense Program Guidelines were therefore not expected to include any reference to acquisition of long-range cruise missiles. This paper examines how ethical concerns over these directions in Japanese foreign and defense policy are being expressed through controversies raised in domestic Japanese politics. Japan is due to hold a general election by October 2021; the issue of constitutional change to allow more active deployment of its Self-Defense Forces, including a first-strike missile capability, and greater military and intelligence cooperation with regional partners (including Australia), could therefore have a significant electoral influence.



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

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2021
Stream: Ethics - Ethics, Law, and Justice

This paper is part of the ACERP2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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