Japan’s Grand Strategy And The Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) (II)

Hypothetical occupation zones for post-war Japan had the Allies decided to divide the country. [Pinterest]

In previous posts, I have explored the political and strategic context for the role of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF). Now I will look at the political reasons why the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) is restricted in its operating concepts and capabilities.

After the Pacific War (which for Japan lasted from 1931 to 1945), the devastation of the war and backlash against militarism became conventional wisdom among Japanese. At the Moscow Conference of December 1945, the Allies agreed that since Japan had fallen to the United States, that country would be allowed to conduct the post-war occupation. (Hungary had fallen to the Red Army and thus was occupied by the Soviet Union alone.) This decision saved Japan from a division like Germany or Korea, although the Soviets still had plans for a Japanese communist state (see below). The map above is a hypothetical division of Japan, developed by a wargamer.

The greater Japanese empire, however was divided among the Allies, with many natural choices, such as the former British colonial possessions being returned (e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.), former French colonial possessions being returned (Indochina), South Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands going to the Soviets, and Taiwan and the Pescadores returning to China (although which China became a key question in 1949). Notably, Korea was divided into North and South, with the Soviets in control of the former, and the other Allies (primarily the US and UK) managing the later.

In Japan, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur governed and imposed a new post-war constitution, which came into force in May 1947, and is technically an amendment to the original Meiji-era constitution of 1889. Article 9 of which reads as below:

(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

As early as 1946, however, planners in the the Joint Staff, under the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), began to consider the re-armament of Japan, anticipating a Soviet attack against Japan. The actual Soviet war plan to attack Hokkaido on August 24th 1945 was published by the Wilson center in 2015, and some say that strategic nuclear deterrence was what saved Japan from the same fate as divided Germany.

In March 1948, when Washington considered starting peace treaty negotiations with Japan, Under Secretary of the Army William Draper stated that the War Department was generally in favor of Japanese rearmament. In response to an inquiry by the secretary of defense, the JCS stated: ‘Solely from the military viewpoint, the establishment of Japanese armed forces is desirable’ to offset ‘our own limited manpower.’

The American vision of an unarmed and pacifist Japan, as rapidly enshrined in the constitution, was nearly dead on arrival, as international events unfolded rapidly in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s:

  • 1947, March – President Harry Truman addressed Congress and the U.S. public, announcing the policy of containment, and establishing the Truman Doctrine.
  • June 1948 – the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin, resulting in the famous airlift.
  • October 1949 – Chiang Kai-shek and the Republic of China were defeated by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Red Army, founding the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
  • June 1950 – North Korea, a Soviet satellite state since 1945, invaded South Korea, fracturing the post-war territorial division.

Thus, by 1950 when John Foster Dulles was appointed to begin negotiating a peace treaty with Japan to conclude the American occupation, he and most other American policy makers had come to see Japan as very important to the defense of American interests and democracy in the Far East.

  • September 1951 – The Treaty of San Francisco was signed, establishing peace between Japan and many Allied nations, but notably not the Soviet Union, China as Republic of China (Taiwan), or People’s Republic of China (mainland), or North nor South Korea.
  • September 1951 – The U.S.-Japan Security Treaty was signed on the same date, but entered into force in April 1952. This ended the military occupation, restored sovereignty to the Japanese government, but also clarified the ongoing US military presence in Japan, originally the Far East Command (FEC) from 1947 until 1957 when the United States Forces Japan (USFJ).
  • March 1954 – The original Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, “contained provisions that permitted the United States to act for the sake of maintaining peace in East Asia and even exert its power on Japanese domestic quarrels.” (Wikipedia)
  • October 1956 – The Soviet Union and Japan signed the Joint Declaration, a bi-lateral agreement short of a peace treaty. This normalized relations between the countries since the Soviet Union did not sign the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. This agreement breaks news today, as Japan and Russia are currently moving towards a peace treaty.
  • 1958 – The U.S. Air Force (USAF) handed over airspace responsibility to JASDF. Threats to Japanese airspace were dealt with in the same way that they were in the U.S. prior to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, much like they were by the British in 1940 (see Dowding System), by manual means. It would be more than a decade until Japan had its own version of SAGE, known as Base Air Defense Ground Environment (BADGE) in English, and 自動警戒管制組織 (jidou keikai kansei soshiki) ”Automatic Warning and Control Organization” in Japanese. [More on this in a future post.]
  • January 1960 – Two key documents were updated, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement. To alleviate the unequal status, removed the provision to intervene in Japanese domestic quarrels, included articles to delineate mutual defense obligations, and U.S. obligations to pre-inform Japan in times of the U.S. military mobilization. The ratification of this treaty was greeted with widespread protests by the Japanese public, who opposed nuclear weapons in Japan, and were concerned about being on the front line in a possible nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *