According to: wiki.answers.com

Under the rules of occupation in 1945, Japan was ordered to comply with US/Allied restrictions: War is illegal for Japan to engage in; other than self defense. That is why the Armed Forces of Japan are now called "SELF DEFENSE FORCES."


Actually it is simply a NAME CHANGE; The Self Defense Air Force can still fight; the Self Defense Ground Force can still fight; and the Maritime Self Defense Force has warships. Added to the NAME CHANGE is Japan's Law (Ordered by the Occupation Forces): These Forces CANNOT engage in "Combat" (other than in self-defense); such as Operation Desert Storm in January to February 1991. Japan could send NON-COMBAT units to Iraq, but not Fighter Planes, tanks, Infantrymen, and Warships. They could send Engineer Units, Medical Units, Administrative Support Units, Transportation Units, etc. These restrictions were similar to that applied to Germany after WW1. Germany was not allowed a Large Army, Air Force, or Navy (especially submarines). Only enough armed forces to defend themselves. However, history has shown that Germany got around these restrictions, as they did re-arm and end up fighting in WW2.

Is this still valid? Does it mean that Japan cannot fight a war except in self defense?

In answer to some comments below: I read about this from a Facebook post, did not believe it and did a Google search. Found this article BUT, since this is a wiki article we cannot be entirely sure about its genuinity.

  • The body of this question does not mention the word "navy". Jul 25 '13 at 7:25
  • So? Have a look at the link, for full text. Jul 25 '13 at 7:27
  • 3
    You are supposed to quote the relevant parts of the link, the readers should never be required to follow your links to read the question, they are there as references, not as a part of the reading.
    – Wertilq
    Jul 25 '13 at 8:12
  • 2
    answered here history.stackexchange.com/questions/8264/… several months ago
    – jwenting
    Jul 25 '13 at 11:04
  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about this is more a question of "Why?" as opposed to being skeptical of the claim that the cannot have a navy.
    – rjzii
    Jul 25 '13 at 13:15

Legal status

Japanese Constitution, despite recent attempts to change that, still contains Article 9, renouncing war:

ARTICLE 9. 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) 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.

There have been two recent attempts to modify the constitution, including above mentioned article

2005 constitution draft:

First paragraph of Article 9, renouncing war, is retained. The second paragraph, forbidding the maintenance of "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential" is replaced by an Article 9-2 which permits a "defence force", under control of the Prime Minister, which defends the nation and may participate in international activities. This new section uses the term "軍" (gun, army or military), which has been avoided under the current constitution. Also, addition in Article 76 of military courts. Members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are currently tried as civilians by civilian courts.

2012 draft (emphasis mine):

National Security: The LDP draft deletes the current provision declaring that armed forces and other war potential shall never be maintained, and adds new Articles 9-2 and 9-3 stating that the "National Defense Force" shall be set up and the Prime Minister shall be its commander-in-chief. According to the papagraph (3) of the new Article 9-2, the National Defense Force not only can defend the territory from a foreign attack and can participate in international peacekeeping operations, but also can operate in order to either maintain domestic public order or to protect individual rights.

Note, that this is only a draft and there is long way from this draft to actually changing the constitution:

Draft changes can be submitted to the Lower House with the support of 100 or more lawmakers, while Upper House lawmakers need the support of at least 50 members. The proposals must be made item by item in accordance to each individual theme and not as a whole package.

Article 96 stipulates that the draft must ultimately be approved with a two-thirds vote in both chambers before being put to a public referendum.

According to the 2010 referendum law, all Japanese citizens aged 18 and older can participate in the referendum and the bid must win a majority in order to actually take effect.

Experts said there are many hurdles in the technical process, making it difficult to amend the Constitution — a fact that is criticized by those in favor of change and welcomed by opponents. (source)

Military strength

Japan is anything but weak militarily:

Despite calling its troops the "Self-Defense Forces," Japan has one of the world's biggest military budgets at 4.81 trillion yen (41.6 billion dollars) a year. (source)

The Japanese navy is one of the most powerful in the world, with numerous very modern and powerful ships such as for example 6 AEGIS destroyers (source) (4 Kongō class and 2 Atago class). In fact their navy ranks 4th, behind USA, Russia and China, but ahead of UK, France and India (source).

Recent changes

Apart of aforementioned draft changes to the constitution, there have been some changes to Japanese military structure. For example in 2006 Ministry of Defense was created, before there have been only Defense Agency with much lower status, than fully-fledged ministry (source). One of the consequences of that is that overseas deployments no longer need approval of the parliament (source as above). Another consequence of that was changing prefix of JMSDF's ships from JDS (Japanese Defense Ship) to JS (Japanese Ship). Seems like a minor name change, but shows direction of the changes.

  • 1
    Great research, specially the amendments and recent news bits, thx! :) Jul 25 '13 at 11:01

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