-ti- Japanese Participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations August 24, 1992 Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress By Rinn-Sup Shinn [Rinn-Sup Shinn, Foreign Affairs Analyst Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division] SUMMARY Japan is positioned to deploy its troops overseas for the first time since World War II. Under a controversial peacekeeping operations (PKO) bill passed by the Japanese Diet (parliament) on June 15, 1992, Japan is allowed to dispatch Self-Defense Forces (SDF) soldiers abroad for noncombat service with United Nations peacekeeping forces (PKF). [1] The politically sensitive PKO legislation comes two years after Japan was stung by international criticism for its failure to send troops to the Persian Gulf, even just for noncombat support. The day after the passage of the bill, Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa pledged an early dispatch of SDF personnel to Cambodia. The PKO law authorizes a deployment of up to 2,000 persons, including SDF troops, civilian police, and election observers. For three years after August 1992, however, Japanese personnel are barred from any overseas missions that could involve them in combat situations. The PKO issue remains controversial because of the question of whether Japan can send troops abroad under Article 9 of the "peace" constitution of 1947. As much because of the constitutional question as because of divided national opinion, the original bill had to be modified to ensure that Japan's PKO role would be limited to humanitarian, non-combat, support activities in secure areas. The Japanese government judges that the PKO legislation augurs well for its continuing effort to become more active internationally. The law seems likely to help enhance Japan's political role to make it more compatible with its global economic presence. The country's active PKO contribution, many observers believe, will supplement U.S. efforts to promote global peace and coprosperity in the post-cold war world. This complementary role is seen as boosting bilateral U.S.-Japan security interests in the Asian-Pacific region. Against a backdrop of tight budgets in the United States, Japan's Cambodian ____________________________________________________ 1 For a full Japanese text of the PKO law, along with that of an amended text of a 1987 law governing the dispatch of international emergency rescue corps, see Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 1992, Satellite Edition, p.4. ____________________________________________________ (Page 2) role, for instance, will be of considerable interest to Congress, as the United States will be tasked to finance a sizeable portion of the Cambodian operations, believed to be the costliest in the U.N.'s involvement in peacekeeping since 1948. JAPANESE COOPERATION WITH U.N. PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS Main Features of the PKO Legislation The PKO law authorizes the SDF participation in two broad categories of U.N. operations: 1) potentially dangerous peacekeeping duties; and 2) supposedly less risky roles in logistical support and humanitarian assistance. [2] For up to three years, the SDF contingents are allowed to engage only in activities in the second category, including: * election monitoring * advisory functions involving civil administration * medical care * Logistical support * bridge repairs and road remaintenance * assistance in environmental restoration. This "freeze" restriction is aimed at alleviating widely shared apprehensions in Japan about possible Japanese involvements in overseas military conflicts. In order to avoid such involvement, the legislation also requires that the following safeguards be in place before and during actual deployment: * a ceasefire among warring parties * the consent of those parties to Japanese deployment * a prior U.N. request for Japanese deployment * the impartiality of U.N. peacekeeping operations * the right of Japan to "suspend" its PKO role [3] * the permission to use "light arms" in self-defense. [4] ____________________________________________________ 2 On June 15, a companion bill was also passed to amend a 1987 law governing the deployment of SDF personnel on disaster relief missions; this was done in order to remove any obstacle to the participation of SDF troops in overseas operations such as those anticipated in Cambodia. 3 One sticky PKO issue has been who will command Japanese troops abroad; the law places SDF troops under the U.N. command, "except when the prime minister deems it necessary." This exception is designed to allow SDF contingents to take a discretionary action (such as a possible refusal to obey the U.N. command's orders to fire for purposes other than self-defense). In such a case, the prime minister may "delegate limited authority" to SDF personnel so that they can take necessary actions to deal with local contingencies. See "Unresolved Questions," Asahi Shimbun, June 16, 1992, Morning Edition, p.5. 4 Light arms are defined as pistol and rifle. ____________________________________________________ (Page 3) In addition, to assure military accountability to civilian authority (a politically touchy issue), the law requires prior Diet approval for each instance of SDF dispatch. A deployment lasting more than two years is subject to new Diet approval; if rejected, the operations must cease. The provisions designed to assure safe PKO operations are to remain in effect for three years and can be lifted only through new legislation following parliamentary review of PKO performance during that period. Even if the "freeze" is lifted, prior Diet approval will be needed to permit an SDF dispatch on risky PKO missions. The operations put on hold include: * ceasefire monitoring [5] * patrol in buffer zones monitoring of arms traffic * collecting and disposing of abandoned weapons * relocation and disarmament of warring factional forces * assistance in creating ceasefire lines * assistance in the exchange of prisoners of war. Cambodia: The First Litmus Test for Japan Japan's PKO contribution is likely to be first put to the test in Cambodia. Some observers suggest that Cambodia could be Japan's gateway to activism in global affairs. For instance, a case can be made that a credible PKO performance there could advance Japan's expressed interest in becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. On June 16, the day after the passage of the PKO bill, Prime Minister Miyazawa ordered government agencies to dispatch a fact-finding mission to Cambodia to report back on what Japan can do for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC). Launched in March 1992, the UNTAC's 18-month mandate includes both peace-restoring and reconstruction activities. These activities are believed to be the largest and the most expensive in the history of U.N. peacekeeping. [6] As of mid-August, some 700 peacekeepers are slated to begin Cambodian duties, with advance teams of SDF personnel planned for dispatch in late August and September. Included are SDF units of 600 engineers who might arrive in Cambodia by mid-October to work on bridge repairs and road maintenance (in an area south of Phnom Penh judged to be relatively safe, with no known Khmer Rouge presence); 75 civilian police (who must speak French ____________________________________________________ 5 Under the legislation, Japanese troops are barred from ceasefire monitoring if they are to participate as a unit for up to three years. This restriction does not apply if they are to serve as ceasefire monitoring team members in individual capacity, armed only with pistols or rifles. 6 See CRS Issue Brief. United Nations Operations in Cambodia. By Lois B. McHugh. IB92096. July 9, 1992. 14 p. ____________________________________________________ (Page 4) or English); 50 election observers (for a possible May 1993 national election); and 8 ceasefire monitors. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly also studying possible cooperation with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand in helping Cambodia resettle its displaced refugees. The ministry's plan seems to be based on the premise that Japan's money and technology can be best used if they are coupled with the "experience and know-how" of the Southeast Asian nations in dealing with refugee resettlement. [7] FACTORS INFLUENCING THE FUTURE OF JAPAN'S PKO The PKO issue seems to have faded into the background, at least for now, but its potential as a volatile issue in Japan will likely remain unchanged if the past two years of bitter debate is any indication. Four constraints are largely responsible: the constitutional question, political sensitivity, public opinion, and factional coalition rule and elections. The Constitutional Question At the root of the two years of debate over PKO is the ambiguity of Article 9 of the "peace constitution." The article declares that "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes." To that end, the article also states: "[L]and, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential will not be maintained." The article is viewed by many Japanese as mandating Japan to foreswear war under all circumstances; some even argue that the maintenance of armed forces itself is unlawful. For decades, scholars, politicians, intellectuals, and the public have disagreed on the ramifications of this broadly worded article for Japan's defense posture and its security cooperation with the United States. Presumably, the ambiguity can be clarified through a constitutional amendment but this option has been foreclosed because the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has lacked the parliamentary majorities needed for such an amendment. As a result, successive LDP governments have issued "interpretations" of Article 9 in trying to justify defense-related measures. The most recent interpretation, issued in August 1991 against the backdrop of the PKO debate, states that Japanese troops can participate in international peacekeeping even if the mission may involve the use of force, as long as the Japanese themselves refrain from the use of force. This interpretation is challenged by the Socialist and Communist parties, some constitutional scholars, and even some of the LDP's Diet members as another effort to stretch the meaning of Article 9. Political Opposition Political sensitivity associated with the SDF's overseas role stems from the ingrained Japanese perceptions that, apart from the constitutional question, the ____________________________________________________ 7 See "Research with ASEAN To Expedite the Relocation of Cambodian Refugees," Yomiuri Shimbun, August 9,1992, Satellite Edition, p.1. ____________________________________________________ (Page 5) SDF deployment will put the lives of Japanese citizens at risk in overseas conflicts. Generally, Japanese leaders in the ruling and opposition parties alike have heeded such perceptions when they debated about Japan's foreign and security policies. This was evident as early as 1954, when the Diet's upper house members adopted a consensus resolution that barred Japan from "deploying troops overseas" under any circumstances. Still regarded in Japan as politically binding, this resolution is unusual if only because it cut across partisan lines. Equally significant, it helped secure the passage of the then controversial bill for the creation of SDF. Currently, some center-right political leaders suggest revising the 1954 resolution to make it compatible with new geopolitical reality in which Japan is expected to play a more active international role. Many Japanese observers seem to agree that, however, that any attempt to reinterpret the resolution will almost certainly set off a new round of divisive national debate. Japan's effort to broaden its PKO role in the future apparently will be conditioned by the same "no-risk" political approach that has tempered the 1992 PKO legislation. Former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu first sought authority, in October 1990, to send SDF personnel to the Persian Gulf in non-combat support for the multinational coalition forces; his bid was aborted amid mounting Japanese concerns that Japan would become embroiled in a regional military conflict, which did not threaten Japan directly. Kaifu's renewed bid in September 1991, inherited by the successor Miyazawa administration in November 1991, has culminated in the current legislation, but not as originally drafted. The bill had to be revised to meet critics' demand that Japan's PKO role be free of risks, real and potential. This is done by "freezing' the provisions that are perceived to be liable to drag Japanese contingents into combat situations. Public Opinion Another constraint that seems to figure in the future debate over PKO is public opinion, an influential factor in the Japanese equation of parliamentary political dynamics. In the 1990-91 period, public opinion on the SDF's overseas deployment, even on non-combat support missions, was generally negative. This trend continued in June 1992. For example, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun poll taken after the passage of the PKO bill, those favoring the "freeze" on the SDF role beyond the bounds of humanitarian aid outnumbered those opposing it by 53.6% to 22.7%. In addition, 56% of the same national sample group expressed that the SDF's overseas deployment remained a "problematical" constitutional issue. [8] ____________________________________________________ 8 "Divided Judgment, Fluid National Mood," Yomiuri Shimbun, June 28, 1992, Satellite Edition, p.2. Another poll, taken June 20-21,1992, showed 52.5%, opposing the PKO legislation, with 44.1% supporting it. See "Prelude to 1995 Restructuring," Bungeishunju, August 1992, p. 102. ____________________________________________________ (Page 6) Factional Coalition Rule and Elections Barring an unforeseen political cataclysm, the ruling LDP seems likely to remain a fragile factional coalition. Sustained by the postwar culture of decision-making through inter-factional consensus, such fragility tends to put a premium on the politics of compromise. Major domestic and foreign policy issues are more often hammered out through brokered consensus. Controversial positions are eschewed to assure the stability of inter-factional collegiality or out of concern for potential electoral backlash. As the Kaifu and Miyazawa governments grappled with the PKO issue in the 1990-92 period, they were cautious to a fault. Apparently, with the forthcoming July 1992 national elections for the upper house in mind, the LDP camp seemed determined to play it safe with the PKO issue. This was because of the bitter electoral setback the LDP had suffered in July 1989, when the party lost a majority in the upper house-for the first time since 1955. (Most analysts judge that the setback was caused by the LDP government's highly unpopular initiatives dealing with consumption tax and trade liberalization issues.) Under the circumstances, the "freeze" on the controversial provisions of the PKO legislation, many observers agree, seemed to have been a tactic to ensure passage in some form and avert damage to LDP electoral prospects from a controversial PKO law. IMPLICATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES The PKO legislation comes after two years of contentious debate about Japan's position in world politics and what role it should play. Spurring the debate was international criticism for Japan's failure to send troops to the Persian Gulf region even in non-combat capacity. Though belated, the legislation seems to reflect Japan's resolve to shoulder broader responsibilities for global peace through a non-military contribution--unless it decides otherwise in three years. Japan's PKO role is expected to enhance its own international stature, and equally significant, it bodes well for the future of U.S.-Japan bilateralism on issues affecting the Asian-Pacific security and interdependence. Japan's contributions to Cambodian causes might also redound well in trying to atone for the difficult legacy of Japan's past military ventures in the region. Analysts share the view that Japan's humanitarian role in Cambodia will have beneficial region-wide effects far beyond the Japan-U.S. partnership. This is because of the perception in many Asian capitals, particularly in Seoul and Beijing, that Japan will be less prone to stake out on its own militarily if its PKO role is defined and played out under the aegis of the United Nations. On the other hand, China and the two Koreas express concern that Japan's PKO engagement might eventually lead to Japanese military adventurism. [End of Text]