Japan's Emergency Legislation and the War on Terrorism

Report Asia

Japan's Emergency Legislation and the War on Terrorism

June 10, 2002 10 min read
The Honorable Fukushiro Nukaga

Although security is one of the most basic challenges for any nation, this issue, unfortunately, has not had a high profile among the Japanese people in Japan's post-war political scene.

With the end of the Cold War, we predicted the advent of a peaceful and stable international society. In reality, however, we have seen unstable situations such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic and religious conflicts, and terrorist attacks.

The two issues that form the pillar of importance in national security, countermeasures against terrorism and emergency legislation, have been hot topics not only in the Japanese Diet session but also among the Japanese people for the past year. On the issue of countermeasures against terrorism, the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law was enacted last October and has provided the legal basis for Japanese cooperation and support activities, such as replenishment and transportation for U.S. forces since late last year. Three bills related to emergency legislation were submitted to the current Diet session just last month and debate on them will begin soon.

The difference between these two issues is that the first deals with countermeasures against a new type of danger, international terrorism, while the three bills related to emergency legislation, on the other hand, are for enacting legislative measures in the event of armed attacks against Japan.

However, the two issues are related in that both the countermeasures against terrorism and the emergency legislation stipulate how Japan responds actively and legislatively under civilian control in the emergency contingencies, which enhances Japan's effectiveness in national security.

First, I would like to discuss Japan's countermeasures against terrorism, and next, I will discuss the legislation to address emergency situations.


The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, are extremely contemptible and unforgivable outrages that took a great number of lives. They are a serious challenge against not only the U.S. but also democratic societies as a whole. Japan has provided support to the U.S. and has taken a firm stand on giving necessary assistance and cooperation since the terrorism attacks. Japan recognizes that we have to face the challenges resolutely, and in cooperation with those countries concerned in order to ensure that such acts can never occur again.

The Government of Japan (GOJ) formulated a basic policy approximately one week following the September 11 attacks that included: (1) taking active measures in the war on terrorism as an issue of Japan's own national security and (2) dealing with terrorism in unity with the countries in the world, giving firm support to the U.S. as an ally. Two weeks later, the GOJ submitted to the Diet the Anti-Terrorism Special Law to allow logistical support, such as supply of fuel for ships and transportation by the Japan Self-Defense Force to U.S. forces, in order to remove threats of such terrorism attacks. As a result of deliberating on every work day and even on Saturdays during the Diet session, the Anti-Terrorism Special Law was enacted at the end of last October, a little less than one month after the submission of the bill.

Furthermore, the GOJ began to provide transportation by the Air-Self Defense Force in late November and to supply fuel in the Indian Ocean in early December, following consultations with the U.S. government on the basic plan.

As I mentioned, Japan began to provide logistical support just three months following the terrorism attacks. During the Gulf War that began after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a bill on Japan's contribution to the Gulf War was rejected by the Diet. Eight months after the cease-fire of the war, the GOJ finally managed to dispatch minesweepers to the Gulf. Compared with Japan's response during the Gulf War, it is obvious that Japan's response immediately after the terrorist attacks against the U.S. was markedly different in both the swiftness and the substance of the support. In short, against the emergence of a new and unprecedented threat, Japan was able to share the recognition of these threats with the U.S., by tackling the problem on its own initiative and ensuring solidarity not only with the U.S. but also with the international community.

Currently, based on the Anti-Terrorism Special Law, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) dispatched two Fast Combat Support Ships and three Destroyers, and the MSDF has been engaged in refueling U.S. and U.K. ships at sea without charge, with a total of 65 refuelings of approximately 114,000 kiloliters of fuel as of April 21, 2002. As for support by the Air Self-Defense Forces (ASDF), C-130 transport airplanes and other aircraft have transported goods such as spare parts and clothes between U.S. bases in Japan and the island of Guam with a total of 33 domestic missions and 14 overseas missions as of April 21, 2002.

Regarding the prospect of JSDF activities in the near future, the Anti-Terrorism Special Law plans for a six-month deployment of the MSDF and ASDF units for supply activities, from November 20, 2001, to May 19, 2002. However, because all al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders have not yet been identified and eradicated, and fighting still occurs in Afghanistan, the war on terrorism will continue for the time being. Based on the information currently available, the GOJ is now reviewing whether or not to extend the duration of JSDF deployed units. I think it is preferable for Japan to work within the international framework in order to eradicate terrorism with extension of the duration of deployment of JSDF units.

An important point here is that the Anti-Terrorism Special Law does not prescribe measures against international terrorism in general, but the particular September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. It also prescribes that the objects for support are not U.S. forces in general but specifically the U.S. forces and the forces of other countries making efforts to remove the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. Accordingly, in order for the GOJ to provide support based on the Anti-Terrorism Special Law, it is indispensable to establish a sequence of cause and effect for the September 11 attacks. In light of the effect of the current Anti-Terrorism Special Law, should the U.S. take the next step in the fight against terrorism, I think it is highly important for both countries to work in close cooperation and to keep in contact with each other.

The cooperation between the U.S. and Japan regarding the measures against terrorism greatly contributes to the international community and at the same time has great potential to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance. I believe that it is important for the GOJ to tackle the difficult task of eradicating terrorism in the international community based on its own initiative. Moreover, by allowing us to conduct such tasks of joint interest smoothly and effectively, I strongly believe that it will strengthen the relations between our two countries. It will also allow us to make the most of the U.S.-Japan alliance, which is a precious common asset for both our countries.


The emergency legislation along with the countermeasures against terrorism is currently among the points of greatest interest at home because they are issues at the core of Japan's national security.

The Japan Defense Agency (JDA) began studies on emergency legislation in 1977 and made an official announcement on the status of the review and the outline of the main issues in 1981 and 1984. These studies were conducted for the purpose of addressing the requirements of a fundamental legislative framework for the JSDF to conduct its mission smoothly in emergency situations

Today, a quarter century later, the fruits of these studies have not directly resulted in actual legislation, for they were not conducted with the purpose of legislation in mind.

However, during the ten years from the Gulf War through the September 11 attacks, we have seen the awareness of the Japanese people changing, and the people have came to widely recognize that it is necessary to make the current system of Japan's national security and crisis management more robust. A turning point was the approval by the Diet in May 1999 of the Law Concerning Measures to Ensure the Peace and Security of Japan in Situations in Areas Surrounding Japan, based on the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation established in 1997. We saw increasing recognition among the Japanese people that it is necessary to promote emergency legislation to defend Japan. As a result, the new cabinet under Prime Minister Koizumi has taken up the political challenge of discussing publicly the necessity of the legislation to deal with emergency situations.

On April 16, the Koizumi Cabinet made a decision on three bills related to emergency legislation and submitted them to the Diet. First was the Bill to Respond to Armed Attack Situation which prescribes the basic principles for response to an armed attack, the respective responsibilities of the national and local governments, the areas in which the people will be called upon to cooperate, and other fundamental items necessary in ensuring the preparedness of our country. The second was a bill to amend the Self-Defense Forces Law, which corrects long-standing pending legislative issues regarding the activities of the JSDF, such as land use and transportation by the JSDF in an armed attack situation. Finally, the third bill amends the Law on the Establishment of the Security Council of Japan, which strengthens the functions of the Security Council of Japan in the event of a national emergency.

The three bills related to the emergency legislation submitted to the current Diet session are not only the fruits of the studies the JDA has conducted so far, but also propose the systems of decision-making and response measures to be taken in the event of an emergency, and include the entire picture of programming for additional legislation in the future, with incorporation of a specific target period. In that sense, the three bills are epochal, providing the modalities of Japan's response to armed attack situations comprehensively. The legislation to ensure the smooth operation of the U.S. forces in situations of armed attacks is also to be reviewed in the program. I believe that the legislation will promote closer Japan-U.S. cooperation in such emergency situations.

In the near future, the debate on these bills will reach its peak in the Diet session. I think that the most basic function of a country is to secure the lives and property of their people, and to build up the political system in such a way so that the country can best fulfill this role. I intend to do my best to make the legislation to deal with emergency situations as effective as possible.


The terrorist attacks on September 11 last year are an unforgettable nightmare for U.S. citizens and all people around the world. A great number of people have come to realize that the world underwent a drastic change after September 11 and that the paradigm of the security environment has shifted. I believe this recognition has firmly registered in the minds of the Japanese people, although perhaps not as dramatically as it has for the American people. After World War II, a large number of Japanese people have had a sense that peace is easily taken for granted as if it were oxygen, having enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and peace. But this sense of peace has gradually changed. In Japan, we have faced unpredictable terror and threats such as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, sarin incidents, North Korea's test launch of its Taepo Dong missile, and infiltration of unidentified ships in the past ten years.

The September 11 incident especially shocked us, completely changing an existing way of thinking about crisis management and national security. I believe that the transformation of the Japanese people's sensibilities has been expressed in the swift approval of the Anti-Terrorism Special Law and the wide-spread support for the legislation to address emergency situations.

Some people in neighboring countries have felt misgivings about our country's situation, viewing it as a sign of the rebirth of narrow-minded nationalism. However, I believe that the change in consciousness of the Japanese people is based on a correct recognition of the new security environment, and it is both a realistic and sound response.

I recognize the importance of the leadership that U.S. politicians, including President Bush, have showed following September 11 and in the war on terrorism. I feel that politicians should take leadership roles during the transformation of the Japanese people's sensibilities of the national security environment and crisis management. I intend to do my determined best to tackle terrorism and to enact legislation to address emergency situations.

In early September last year, I attended a ceremony in San Francisco to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Japan-U.S. Peace Treaty. At that time, as I thought back on the modalities of Japan's national security for the past 50 years since the end of World War II, and at the same time contemplated the modalities of Japan's national security and crisis management for the next 50 years, I was strongly convinced that it is highly important to build peace and stability in the world, based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty as its core.

The 21st century is often called the Asia Pacific Century. The U.S. and Japan shoulder the important responsibility of determining whether the Asia-Pacific region will experience confusion and sluggishness, or enjoy stability and prosperity.

The U.S. and Japan share the common values of freedom and democracy, and the common strategic interest of pursuing co-existence with other countries in the world. In closing, I should like to propose that the U.S. and Japan should further enhance existing cooperation between us, and face the task together of creating a new century when civilization will flourish.

The Honorable Fukushiro Nukaga is a Liberal Democratic Party member of the Diet (House of Representatives) of Japan.


The Honorable Fukushiro Nukaga