Skip navigation

I just came across this very engaging op/ed at The Japan Times [edited for length and highlighted for my emphasis]:

Collective self-defense and collective security: what the differences mean for Japan
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2007

PHILADELPHIA – As the debate in Japan heats up over whether and how to amend Article 9 of the Constitution, the terms “collective self-defense” and “collective security” are often used in the same breath, almost as though they were synonymous. Often the terms are avoided altogether.

The terms “collective self-defense” and “collective security,” however, each have a very precise meaning under international law, and the amendment of Article 9 to allow Japan to engage in either one would have very specific and different consequences. […] A more precise use of these terms ought to preclude the government from hiding behind such woolly terms as “international peace cooperation activities.”

Collective self-defense is authorized, along with individual self-defense, by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. Put simply, if a country in the international system has suffered an armed attack, then any other country has the right, but not the duty, to use armed force against the aggressor in reliance upon the principle of collective self-defense.

The only preconditions, in addition to the determination that an armed attack has occurred or is irrevocably in motion, are that the use of force is deemed necessary, that the force is proportionate to that used in the attack or the threat posed, and that it is immediate.

What is crucial to recognize here, however, is that there is no requirement that the U.N. Security Council make any prior determinations, much less authorize the use of force.

In contrast, collective security involves the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security, as authorized by the U.N. Security Council under Chapter VII, and specifically Article 42, of the U.N. Charter. There need be no “armed attack” as a conditional precedent, but merely a determination by the Security Council that there is a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, or an act of aggression, such that the use of force or other measures are required to maintain or restore international peace and security.

So the scope of collective security operations is much broader and the threshold for its use much lower, than for collective self-defense; but states may not act unilaterally, singly or together, under the guise of collective security. Authorization by the U.N. Security Council is necessary.

It should be clear, therefore, that any amendment of Article 9 to explicitly authorize Japan to exercise a right of collective self-defense, would be to thereby give the government the power to use force anywhere in the world upon its own determination that there had been an armed attack against another state. Given the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, Japan could be called upon to defend the U.S. anywhere in the world.

The government of Japan has tried to narrow the discussion of collective self-defense to specific examples, such as the interception of ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. It has thus created the mistaken illusion that somehow collective self-defense can be limited to such narrow circumstances. But once the Constitution is amended to permit collective self-defense, the government will be free to use force on the other side of the world so long as the conditions for collective self-defense are satisfied.

The fundamental question, therefore, is whether the Constitution should be amended to allow collective self-defense, or collective security, or both. The fact that the LDP draft constitutional amendment proposal uses highly ambiguous language that could encompass both concepts is problematic, and should be viewed with suspicion.

Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan, has argued that Japan may have some obligation to participate in the U.N. collective security system. Japan joined the U.N. and became a party to the U.N. Charter, and so arguably accepted an obligation to participate in its collective security system.

Japan might, therefore, seriously consider providing constitutional authority for collective security operations, together with carefully crafted oversight and approval requirements, in any amendment to Article 9. That would not be inconsistent with the spirit of the preamble of the Japanese Constitution.

But that is a far cry from authorizing collective self-defense. There is no duty under international law to engage in collective self-defense, nor is it consistent with the spirit of the renunciation of war and the use of force for purposes of resolving international disputes that is articulated in Article 9. Nor is it clear that it would be in the long-term interests of Japan, given the likely response of neighboring countries to such a policy shift.

In any event, however, any amendment to Article 9 ought to be very clear as to precisely what purposes armed force may be used for, and under what conditions. Such ambiguous terms as “international peace cooperation activity” ought to be banished from the debate, and from explanations of government defense policy.



  1. Oh. I used to be guilty of confusing “collective security” and “collective defense”. Thanks for enlightening me.

    I don`t see any gains Japan would have if it would pursue its use of its so-called right to participate in any activity related to “collective security”.

  2. Sorry for not getting your comment up sooner. It was stuck in the seven circles of spam hell.

    I believe that there is a place for collective security within Japan’s security activities, but those are inextricably linked to UN-sanctioned missions. For instance, had Japan have had some allowance for collective security, it might have been able to participate in the first Gulf War: a UN-sanctioned, multilateral mission to restore international order. This is the view Ichiro Ozawa has espoused during his career, and it is consistent with the preamble of the Japanese constitution:

    “We, the Japanese people, acting through our elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we should secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty all over this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.

    “We, the Japanese people, desire peace for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world. We desire to occupy an honored place in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression, and intolerance for all time from the earth. We recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.

    “We believe that no nation is responsible to itself alone, but that laws of political morality are universal; and that obedience to such laws is incumbent upon all nations who would sustain their own sovereignty and justify their sovereign relationship with other nations.

    “We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honor to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.”

    The real problem comes from when the conditions in which collective security is acceptable becomes blurred. This is why the author of the editorial was seeking conceptual clarity.

  3. Very enlightening.

    But I wonder, if Ichiro Ozawa`s view is that Japan should participate in UN-sanctioned missions, howcome he is so opposed to MSDF`s activitis in the Indian Ocean?

    Correct me if I`m wrong, but isn`t the NATO-led activities in Afghanistan UN-sanctioned?

  4. To quote a recent NBR Japan Forum post by Robyn Lim:

    Having been on the move lately, I am not certain about this, but as far as I know, Ozawa has NOT said that the Japanese navy ops in the Indian Ocean have been refuelling US and other warships engaged in the Iraq war.

    Instead, he has stuck to a broad argument that the IO ops lack a UN mandate.

    The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), led by NATO, does have a UN mandate, but the Indian Ocean deployment is not part of ISAF… rather a support mission for both ISAF and US forces in-country.

    However, Ozawa also had this to say:

    “I am against the current ISAF deployment, although I would support a deployment clearly authorised by a decision of the United Nations”.

    So, you’re right to see some confusion, as I think Ozawa isn’t particularly clear himself.

  5. Really, I`m beginning to believe that Mr. Ozawa is opposing the MSDF mission just for the sake of opposing it.

    I do not know much about him, but given his record of switching party affiliation for his political convenience, my impression is that he is someone who should never be Japan`s prime minister. Not that he has a big chance. But who know what would happen if the next prime minister suddenly decides to dissolve the lower house?

  6. Well, I hold my hand up as an Ozawa supporter, however, I see your point. He is an ideologue much in the same way Abe was (although Ozawa’s vision has a greater depth).

    The Indian Ocean deployment is a target, a focus by which the DPJ can exercise its strength (albeit, as you say, for the sake of opposing it). There is a disconnect between the DPJ’s policies and Ozawa’s own concerns, primarily that the DPJ is concerned about the mission’s ambiguities, so I gather, while Ozawa questions it legitimacy as a whole.

    However, opposition on this issue is perhaps the first step towards Ozawa’s goal of a two-party government.

    The major question is, though, how much of this is Ozawa and how much of this is the DPJ? Where does one end and the other begin?

    Those are things I cannot hazard a good guess at.

  7. how far did you think the legality of collective selfe defence under UN charter article 51? how such collection will be interpreated? what about the means they employ to secure “them selve’? how you differentiate collective self defense with collective security? how many regional and sub regional organizations are at present to use this collective self defence and their legitimacy?


    >Right of collective self-defense

    Isn’t there possibility as follow?

    form an alliance with Russia and china, and
    fight against the United States

    m9(゚∀゚)Идиот!> номенклату́ра
    נומנקלטורה עמלק
    Ceterum autem censeo, Nomenklaturam esse delendam.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: