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Japan’s National Security System for 2023


The term ‘national security’, first introduced in 1945, is younger than others used in International Security. Before, the notion of a state's security existed, but the terms used were ‘defense’ or ‘national defense’, which referred to its military affairs. The US National Security Act of 1947 helped exceed this singular military dimension, and it established the following three organs: The National Security Council (NSC), The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and The National Security Resources Board. These three organs, alongside other new separate departments for the three military branches, provided a comprehensive program for the future of the national security of the US. As described by Dr. Voss in his Geopolitics and National Security Systems course in Year 2, several elements go into realizing a state's national security. The National Security Grand Strategy is a fusion of the quest for national security, national interests, and vital interests.

This article will examine Japan's National Security Systems for 2023 and some of the challenges affecting its national security. Japan acknowledges that globalization and interdependence alone do not suffice to ensure peace and development worldwide. From Japan’s perspective, the challenges faced by the existing international order are derived from the shifts in power dynamics and growing geopolitical competitions, aggravated by other emerging issues such as climate change and infectious diseases. Japan’s stance has remained that of a peaceful country after the end of WW2. It shares universal values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law with other democratic countries. In this pursuit, it wishes to tackle international challenges through cross-border cooperation. However, some states do not share these universal values and exploit unique approaches to advance their economies and technologies faster, challenging the established international order and intensifying geopolitical competition. As mentioned, Dr. Voss refers to several elements of national security, as described in Defining National Security: The nonmilitary aspects by Joseph J. Romm. The two elements this article will further investigate are the protection from external (military) threats and physical harm and vital economic and political interests.

Regarding protection from external (military) threats and physical harm, Japan’s National Security System is concerned with military advancements and activities of Russia, China, and North Korea, including nuclear weapons, missile development, and their growing relations. Firstly, Russia’s collaboration with China in joint exercises and military maneuvers near Japan raises security concerns, coupled with the increase of military activities near the Northern territories of Japan. Secondly, China's intensified military activities in disputed areas in the Sea of Japan, lack of transparency, and missile launches near Japan strain their relationship. Albeit, Japan seeks constructive cooperation in economic and human resources exchanges. Lastly, it also seeks international attention and support in addressing North Korea's abductions, nuclear ambitions, missile launches near its territory, and potential confrontations on the Korean Peninsula.

Even though it faces such threats and challenges from its neighboring states, Japan does not stand alone. It is part of two major alliances: ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), which includes Japan, Australia, the US, and India. These two partnerships both strive to achieve a free and open Indian-Pacific, another goal of its national security system. Additionally, it maintains a vital alliance with the US, aiming to strengthen defense capabilities and deepen security cooperation while cultivating relationships with countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. Lastly, it wishes to extend its relationships with AUKUS (The Trilateral Security Pact between Australia, the UK, and the US).

Regarding Japan protecting its vital economic and political interests, this article reviews the challenges to its economic interests and its plans. These challenges are linked to its unique geographic characteristics and historical developments. Japan's archipelagic geography, mountainous terrain, and susceptibility to seismic and volcanic activity create difficulties in freshwater collection, soil fertility, and access to mineral resources. The limited availability of natural water reservoirs and rapid river runoff impact irrigation and domestic water supply. Additionally, the scarcity of fertile soils and limited mineral reserves, except for limestone and gold, necessitate significant imports. During its industrialization era, Japan depleted most of its coal reserves and a substantial amount of crude oils, which continued in large quantities since WWII. This exploitation generated its reliance on foreign energy and mineral resources, which further created economic vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the mining industry, which may have alleviated some of these resource constraints, is currently considered a decreasing component of the economy.

The most pressing contemporary challenge to Japan's national security, especially to its economy, is its aging population, resulting in a declining workforce and economic constraints. This demographic issue is particularly severe due to its wide-ranging repercussions. Following World War II, Japan's dedicated investment in healthcare increased life expectancy, with over 29.8% of the population aged 65 or over by 2022. This demographic change impacted the labor market. For instance, fewer qualified employees are available, and social infrastructure such as the healthcare and pension systems are under strain. Additionally, an aging population demands financial assistance and long-term health policies, which influence economic development, fiscal restrictions, and Japan's efforts to retain its cultural identity. To overcome these difficulties, Japan strives to increase cross-border commerce and improve the flow of products, energy, food, and the population’s mobility. While Japan confronts resource acquisition, intelligence gathering, and technical innovation concerns, its unwillingness to allow additional immigrants may worsen these issues and limit growth across all sectors.

In conclusion, Japan's National Security System for 2023 is a comprehensive response to the evolving global landscape and its challenges. It recognizes that national security has grown beyond military defense to encompass more elements, including economic, political, and societal factors. In addressing these multifaceted challenges, Japan's National Security System for 2023 demonstrates its dedication to defending its values ​​and national interests. Additionally, it commits to safeguarding the coordinated actions and strategic partnerships that contribute to global stability and prosperity.

Please check the links below for further readings which were used in the writing of this article:

1. Izumikawa, Y. (2010). Explaining Japanese Antimilitarism: Normative and Realist Constraints on Japan’s Security Policy. International Security, 35(2), 123–160. Retrieved from

2. Japan Ministry of Defence [MOD]. (2022a, December). Defence Buildup Program. In "National Security Strategy" / "National Defense Strategy" / "Defense Buildup Plan". Japan Ministry of Defence [MOD].

3. Japan Ministry of Defence [MOD]. (2022b, December). National Defence Strategy. Ministry of Defence/Self-Defence Forces. Retrieved from

4. Japan Ministry of Defence [MOD]. (2022c, December). National Security Strategy of Japan. Ministry of Defence/Self-Defence Forces. Retrieved from

5. Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry [MEDI]. (2023, April) Information|Current Survey of Production|METI|Prelimination Survey. Retrieved from

6. Nakatani, H. (2019, October 31). Population aging in Japan: policy transformation, sustainable development goals, universal health coverage, and social determinates of health. Glob Health Med., 1(1):3-10. Retrieved from

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