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Article 3 in 2008
First published in ejcjs on 20 July 2008

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Transforming Security Politics

Koizumi Jun'ichiro and the Gaullist Tradition in Japan


H.D.P. Envall

Associate Lecturer
La Trobe University

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This article examines whether there is an identifiable Gaullist tradition in post-war Japanese security politics and how the security policies of Koizumi Jun'ichirō, a recent Japanese prime minister, compare to such a tradition. The article argues that Gaullism has been a minority tradition in domestic Japanese politics and so its practitioners have often compromised on their goals out of political necessity. Its most distinctive characteristic, therefore, has been its inward-looking agenda, the preoccupation with achieving a domestic political transformation in order to make Japan's domestic politics more conducive to its agenda. Although Koizumi did not pursue a strategy encompassing all of Gaullism's goals, he did make great efforts to pursue the Gaullist agenda. More importantly, he followed this established pattern of directing his efforts inward, toward a transformation of Japan's domestic politics of security.

Key Words: Japan; security; Gaullism; politics


In June 2006, Koizumi Jun'ichirō made his swansong visit to the US—including an obligatory trip to the birthplace of Elvis. It was a typically glamorous end to Koizumi's time as Japan's prime minister. While in power, this charismatic politician sought to overhaul and redefine not only Japan's domestic politics and economy but also the country's approach to security. On this latter point, 'It was Koizumi', according to Hughes and Krauss, 'who smashed long-standing taboos and created the conditions for ending Japan's foreign and security policy inertia.' They argue that 'Koizumi was the most significant Japanese prime minister since Yoshida Shigeru' (Hughes and Krauss 2007, 157). In his vision of Japanese security, however, Koizumi had more in common with a stream of post-war politics that has been outspoken on defence and generally opposed to Yoshida's approach. It is a stream of politics that, according to some, has pursued a Japanese variation of Gaullism. Although forming more a nebula of overlapping views than a coherent group, Japan's Gaullists have believed that the country should become a more capable, more autonomous, and more 'normal' nation.

In this article, I examine Koizumi's role in Japan's domestic security politics. In particular, I look at how his approach accorded with the trends of the post-war period. I focus on two questions especially. First, to what extent has there been a tradition in Japan's post-war security politics that might be called Gaullist? And second, how did Koizumi's security politics compare with such a tradition? I have divided the article into four sections. The first explains the ideas of Japanese Gaullism. The second examines whether there has been a Gaullist tradition, focusing on two key post-war leaders who attempted significant transformation in Japanese security politics, Kishi Nobusuke and Nakasone Yasuhiro. The third section looks more closely at Koizumi's security policies, while the last attempts to locate Koizumi's policies in the context of this Gaullist tradition.

Gaullism has been a minority tradition in domestic Japanese politics. It has been largely unsuccessful in realising its ambitions but resilient in the face of regular setbacks, which has meant that its practitioners have often compromised out of political necessity with other approaches to security, notably on the question of autonomy. Yet, despite its compromises, it can still be clearly identified by virtue of its consistent concern with several policy goals, particularly the enhancement of Japan's military capabilities and the equalisation or abrogation of the US alliance. Because of this minority role in domestic Japanese politics, however, its most distinctive characteristic has been its inward-looking agenda. Japanese Gaullism has been especially preoccupied with achieving a domestic political transformation, especially the overturning of the Yoshida consensus, in order to reorient Japan's domestic political norms more toward its security goals.

Koizumi, I argue, did much that reflected key elements of this tradition. Although he did not pursue what a more hard-line approach might see as an ideal strategy encompassing all of Gaullism's goals, he did make great efforts to establish a Gaullist agenda while in government. For instance, he set about enhancing Japan's security capabilities. Most importantly, however, he followed the accepted Japanese Gaullist pattern in directing his efforts inward, toward a transformation of the domestic politics of security. Combining earlier Gaullist strategies for remaking Japan's security politics, he set about establishing the institutional and normative groundwork necessary to create a domestic political environment more conducive to future Gaullist-style revision.

Defining Japan's Gaullism

What does 'Gaullism' mean in the Japanese context? As an adaptation of the approach of former French president, Charles de Gaulle, Gaullism borrows from de Gaulle's realist, nationalist state-centric view of international politics, emphasising in particular military independence (see Hazareesingh 1994). For de Gaulle, foreign policy was based on the belief in the primacy of national interest, over ideology, and the need for France to achieve greatness (grandeur) or independence (Jackson 2003). When applied to Japan, the term may overlook some nuances in the country's different security approaches that might be called revisionist or nationalist. And it cannot be transposed perfectly into the East Asian context; France's early Cold War environment is quite different from Japan's past and present environments. Yet 'Japan has a long tradition of "Gaullist" thinking' according to Hughes (2005, 51). In the Meiji era, as Pyle (2007, 56) explains, 'Japan's all-consuming drive for wealth and power was intended to restore Japan's autonomy'. Likewise, in the lead-up to and during the Second World War, Japan pursued imperial hegemony in Asia through a policy of 'autonomous national defense' (Crowley 1966, 187–196). It took this action in part because of its drive for wider political, economic, security and cultural autonomy from the West (Pyle 2007).

Inoguchi and Bacon (2006) equate Gaullism with an updated French ideal for Japan to follow in order to become a 'global ordinary power' (see also Inoguchi 2004). An important idea of Gaullist thinking therefore is 'autonomy'. 'Through its tight alignment with the United States,' they argue, 'Japan has placed all of its diplomatic eggs in one basket. This excessive alignment has generated a significant body of dissenting argument suggesting that Japan should strive for greater autonomy' (Inoguchi and Bacon 2006, 6). But the question then is: how? From the ideal Gaullist perspective, this autonomy is achieved through change in four areas (see Hughes 2005, 51): constitutional revision, expanded military capabilities, an 'equalisation of roles in the US-Japan alliance', and the 'eventual abrogation of the security treaty'. Accordingly, the fulfilment of these conditions 'is the only way to break security dependence on an external power and for Japan to function as a truly independent sovereign state' (Hughes 2005, 51).

According to Mochizuki (1983/84), Gaullism can be separated from three other main security schools of post-war Japanese politics. These are unarmed neutralism, political realism, and military realism. Unarmed neutralists support Japan's anti-militarist culture, arguing that Japan should dissolve the US alliance, sign friendship treaties with other countries in the region, and act as a neutral economic power. Political realists argue that Japan should work within the domestic and international constraints on its security role, focus on the economy, and rely on the US for security (see Pyle 1996, 2007). The third group, military realists, take a position closer to that of the Gaullists. In contrast to political realists, they do not restrict themselves to seeking policy options within the accepted political boundaries. They argue that Japan should take up a greater role in its own defence rather than relying on the alliance. However, they also differ from the Gaullists, as Mochizuki (1983/84, 168) argues, 'in not calling for a security policy independent of the United States which reflects nationalist and/or anti-American sentiments; they instead advocate closer military cooperation between Japan and the United States'.

But Japan's Gaullism is best understood at the domestic level. Indeed, what really 'distinguishes the gaullist from the realist schools of strategic thought (both political and military)', argues Mochizuki (1983/84, 166–167), 'is that it links Japanese rearmament to a transformation of the Japanese political system'. In order 'to build up the military', the Gaullists 'want to change the Japanese polity'. This inward, domestic orientation represents a distinctive feature of Japanese Gaullism, especially compared to the French version. The explanation for this lies in the marginalisation of the Gaullist agenda in Japanese politics from the 1950s, which meant that Gaullism has always had a transformational quality directed toward upending the established order. For Gaullists, this order has been overly dominated by the Yoshida doctrine of the political realists, under which Japan has kept within tight constraints on its security role. Gaullists instead believe that Japan's political leaders should set about transforming this political order so as to allow Japan to have a stronger, more autonomous stand on defence.

It is important to note that Gaullism in Japan is less a political school and more an overlapping nebula of political views and styles, ranging from the ideological to the more pragmatic. This article focuses on the latter, which has been more prominent in the political world. Given that they have historically had to compete with other more influential groups, many have taken a more pragmatic approach to the Gaullist agenda, an incrementalism Samuels (2006, 2007) describes as 'salami slicing'. By contrast, more ideological Gaullists find it much easier to maintain hard-line objectives. It is thus possible to distinguish Gaullists such as Nishibe Susumu and Ishihara Shintarō from others such as Nakanishi Terumasa, Kishi, Nakasone and Koizumi. As Samuels (2007) points out, Nishibe has been at different times critical of Nakasone for his pragmatism, over Yasukuni for instance, and Koizumi for his approach to diplomacy with North Korea. Conversely, Nakanishi has argued for a more pragmatic strategy.

The Post-War Gaullist Tradition

How can these understandings be applied when examining Japanese post-war security? Two prime ministers in particular are considered to stand out as Japanese Gaullists. Kishi Nobusuke and Nakasone Yasuhiro took similarly outspoken approaches to security. Along with Hatoyama Ichirō, Miki Bukichi and others, Kishi was, according to Kataoka (1991, 165), 'a Gaullist at heart'. Likewise, Fukai (2001, 177) argues that the 'central theme that drove Kishi's political life after the war' was the classic Gaullist ambition of restoring Japan's independence. Kishi was certainly a major player in the early post-war debates over Japan's security policy and, according to Hook et al. (2001, 127), 'challenged head-on the norm of anti-militarism'. Likewise, George (1988, 274) calls Nakasone the 'most "visibly patriotic" of Japan's recent prime ministers', while Kataoka (1980, 6) describes him, along with others, including Kishi, as 'Gaullist in outlook'. Nakasone himself later noted that his thinking in his early days was very close to that of Hatoyama and Kishi (Iokibe 2002). It was also apparent when he served as director general (chōkan) of the Defence Agency in the early 1970s. 'As defence agency director general, what I thought the most', he later observed, 'was for defence policy to breathe under the shadow of America. The idea that we must have … an independent nation's defence, a more autonomous defence, was extremely strong' (quoted in Iokibe 2002, 57).

The major themes of Kishi and Nakasone's leadership reflect the concerns of Gaullism—constitutional revision, rearmament, and alliance realignment. On constitutional revision, Kishi announced early on a policy which included the proposal to 'permit revision of the Constitution and rearrangement of the national structure' (quoted in Kurzman 1960, 265). And he was a major influence in establishing, and then chairing, the Constitutional Investigation Committee set up in March 1954 (Ward 1956; Dower 1979; Sims 2001). Similarly, Nakasone argued for constitutional revision before and during his prime ministership (Hook, et al. 2001; Nakasone 2004; Watanabe 1994). In 1982, for instance, he stated that he was personally an 'advocate of constitutional revision' (Watanabe 1994, 334).

On rearmament, Kishi wrote in the mid-1950s about Japan being able to defend itself (Sadō 2003; Samuels 2007): 'To defend with one's own hands one's motherland as an independent nation', he argued, 'is a natural obligation and at the same time a right' (Kishi 1954, 109). Upon becoming prime minister, he established a long-delayed Basic Plan for National Defense (see Ōtake 1983; Keddell 1993). As head of the Defence Agency, Nakasone argued that Japan should pursue a more autonomous defence posture by gaining air and sea superiority around Japan. As prime minister, he sought to relax restrictions on arms-related exports, agreed to participate in the Strategic Defence Initiative ('star wars') and, in opposing constraints on Japanese defence expenditure, fought to raise defence spending above 1 per cent of GDP (on these issues see Keddell 1993; Hook et al. 2001).

On the alliance, both leaders supported a security policy more independent of the US but were pragmatic when in office. Kishi initially argued that 'It is not the policy of an independent nation to have troops of a foreign country based on its soil' (quoted in Samuels 2007, 20, original from Kishi 1954, 109). Yet he also thought that both Yoshida's cooperative stance on the US and Hatoyama's independent stance were possible (Kitaoka 1995). In fact, he saw the alliance as a way to increase Japanese independence, especially through rearmament. For his part, Nakasone argued that the US-Japan security treaty should be relegated to a secondary role, although the autonomous defence (jishu bōei) ideal would not replace the alliance. He gradually softened his view throughout his career. On becoming prime minister, he dropped demands for autonomy to assuage US complaints but utilised the demands of the alliance to raise Japan's security role in the Cold War (see Keddell 1993; Hirose 1989; Green 1995).

Both Kishi and Nakasone were devoted to a domestic political transformation that would allow for security reform, though they pursued quite contrasting strategies. Kishi sought political realignment. Scholars such as Hara (1995) and Samuels (2003, 231) argue that 'Kishi was the father of LDP dominance, the central figure in building the 1955 System'. Having ousted Yoshida and undermined Hatoyama, Kishi attempted to steer the newly-formed LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) toward the Gaullist goals of undoing Occupation reforms and revising the US alliance. By contrast, but befitting his inclination toward charismatic leadership, Nakasone pursued a more abstract agenda or, as Kenneth Pyle (1996, 88) puts it, a 'grand design'. While prime minister he adopted a top-down approach, offering a new vision to replace the Yoshida doctrine. To summarise, Japan would no longer be a follower nation but would be more active in strategic affairs and through 'liberal nationalism', or national pride, would take up global leadership by becoming an international state (see Pyle 1996, 89–103).

Yet as they pursued their plans both leaders struggled to overcome numerous political obstacles. Kishi's experience was an early indication of what would become a repeating pattern of post-war politics. He found himself squeezed by the mainstream conservatives of Yoshida on the one side and the socialists on the other. With the good showing by the socialists in the 1955 election, Kishi gave up on constitutional revision and focused instead on treaty revision, although it was this which ultimately led to his political demise. In contrast, and despite his presidential pretensions, Nakasone was circumspect in confronting these domestic obstacles. His proposals at the Defence Agency were sidelined and his attempts to increase defence spending had only limited success (Keddell 1993). Whilst he could use his charisma and powerful personality on the international stage, Nakasone was less able to employ these traits to good effect in intra-LDP politics.

To what extent then is it possible to identify a post-war Gaullist tradition upon which Koizumi might have drawn? Suggestive of a Gaullist tradition is the consistency of these leaders' objectives. They unfailingly viewed domestic political transformation and capability development as fundamental security policy principles even while accepting compromise on the question of autonomy. And they were not isolated figures but shared these views with numerous Cold War political figures, including Fukuda Takeo, Hatoyama Ichirō and Kōno Ichirō (Kataoka 1980, 1991; Welfield 1988). Moreover, their acceptance of compromise on the question of autonomy was often laboured. Kishi's view that 'enhancing Japan's independence and strengthening the country's ties with the United States … need not prove contradictory' (Swenson-Wright 2005, 224) begs the question of how. Likewise, Nakasone's slow progression from autonomy firebrand to sober alliance supporter suggests that he underwent an intense internal struggle between the idealistic and pragmatic impulses of Japanese Gaullism and between his honne (private) and tatemae (public) views.

Two explanations for these puzzles—and especially the tension between the commitment to the alliance and the desire for autonomy—focus on Japan's international position. Samuels (2007, 42) follows an alliance explanation. The anti-mainstream conservatives were won over by the US with 'promises of greater autonomy, reduced base presence, and more'. The 'more', Samuels (2007, 218 f.n.30) argues, refers to 'cash payments from the Central Intelligence Agency' (see also US Department of State 2006). Mochizuki (2007a) suggests a limited autonomy explanation. 'As early as the 1950s', he argues, 'Japanese conservative leaders realized that it would be better to work with the United States rather than against the United States in order to enhance Japan's voice and manoeuvrability in international affairs' (Mochizuki 2007a, 12). The Yoshida school famously saw such autonomy in mercantile terms. But Kishi and Nakasone also used the alliance to attract a greater role. As Samuels (2007, 30) notes, these leaders 'argued that Japan should rebuild its military capabilities, and sought a reciprocal security commitment with the United States as a step toward their holy grail of "autonomous defense" '.

A third explanation focuses on how Gaullism was faring at the domestic level. The Gaullists accepted compromise grudgingly because they had been squeezed by the politics of early post-war Japan—squashed, as it were, between Yoshida's conservative successors and the socialists. Unlike de Gaulle in France, Japan's Gaullists had few choices and so found compromise a necessary evil. If there has been a Gaullist tradition, therefore, it is clear then that it has not been overly successful. Japan's Gaullists succumbed to their opponents and the politics of security subsequently stabilised around the Yoshida consensus. As Swenson-Wright (2005, 235) sums up, 'the Japanese government concentrated on economic growth, while avoiding the contentious issues of constitutional revision, anti-Communism, and rearmament'. Yet the tradition, despite its compromises, has been resilient. Nakasone's arrival in the 1980s constitutes another Gaullist confrontation with Japan's post-war security institutions; although, as George (1988, 267) notes, 'Nakasone did not achieve a clear victory'. In a quieter repetition of the 1950s' conflict, the Gaullists had again retreated.

Koizumi's Security Agenda

The repeated retreats over four decades highlight just how much changed in Japan's security politics in the early 2000s. International events played an important part in this shift. The rise of China was significant in recasting attitudes toward the regional balance of power. But of more immediate importance was North Korea's confrontational approach to regional relations and especially to its dealings with the US. North Korea's testing of missiles and a nuclear weapon, as well as its admissions concerning the abduction of Japanese citizens, complicated Japan's relations not only with North Korea but also with other regional powers. The North Korean threat also became a major factor in domestic politics (e.g. see Akaha 2006). Another major domestic factor was Koizumi himself. Just as Nakasone had in the 1980s, Koizumi displayed a charismatic and populist political style, promoting himself as the leader needed to reform both Japan and the LDP. Inoguchi and Bacon (2006, 7) point out that 'Koizumi's articulate message and decisive response in support of the war against terrorism, and his dramatic Pyongyang summit' were 'not inconsistent with the French model of leadership, and the French preparedness to pursue initiatives which might upset the United States.' But where did Koizumi stand on the major themes so far identified in the approaches of leaders such as Kishi and Nakasone?

It should be pointed out that the strengthening of the security policy–making system had been underway for some time before Koizumi (Hughes and Fukushima 2004; Hughes 2005). Moreover, Koizumi did not outline a grand strategy but often reacted to events, international and domestic. Nonetheless, by design, accident or some mixture of the two, Koizumi played a major if not the central role in guiding these currents. Having gained control of the government, as Samuels (2007, 74) explains, Koizumi and the other 'direct heirs to the antimainstream agenda … set to work to transform the institutions of national security policymaking'. Their agenda, at least, matched that of Gaullism, covering constitutional revision, the enhancement of Japan's military capability, autonomy and, most notably, a wider domestic political transformation.

On the issue of security relations with the US, Koizumi reaffirmed the primacy of the alliance while attempting some independence in diplomacy. The Koizumi administration, according to Mochizuki (2007a, 12), adopted the 'paradoxical logic' of working with the US rather than against it to increase autonomy (cf. McCormack 2007). One example of Koizumi's stab for greater independence was Japan's oil diplomacy with Iran in 2004, despite US concerns. But the most often-cited example was Koizumi's North Korean diplomacy, especially his meetings with Kim Jong-Il in 2002 and 2004. Koizumi took the step to meet with Kim and improve relations with North Korea even though 'Washington was not pleased with Tokyo's plan' (Akaha 2006, 23; on the North Korean issue, see also Hughes 2005; Inoguchi and Bacon 2006; Mochizuki 2007a). Nonetheless, while Koizumi was able to play chief diplomat and the trips did lead to the return of some Japanese abducted by North Korea, the results were otherwise limited. The two countries soon fell out over the abduction issue and North Korea's plan to develop nuclear weapons (McDougall 2007). In any case, Japan remained close to the US position on most issues relating to North Korea, especially the denuclearisation question at the subsequent Six-Party Talks.

When it came to the US relationship, therefore, Koizumi mostly aimed for greater cooperation. Japan supported the US war on terror, particularly through the enactment of anti-terror legislation and the deployments of the SDF, including those of refuelling ships to the Indian Ocean and reconstruction forces to Iraq. Koizumi also deepened the relationship on other fronts. Much was done under the US-Japan Defence Policy Review Initiative (DPRI), including the development of new weapons systems, especially ballistic missile defence (BMD), the relocation of US bases in Japan, and the establishment of a Joint Operations Coordination Centre. Japan accepted, for instance, the deployment of the USS Shiloh, an early BMD capable destroyer, to Yokosuka in August 2006 (IISS 2007a, 2007b). Finally, Koizumi also attempted to tie in the relationship with popular culture and his own political leadership. Throughout his prime ministership, he sought a public, personalised relationship with President George Bush to demonstrate the strength of the alliance and elevate his own status (Lincoln 2002; Uriu 2004; McCormack 2007).

Where Koizumi's administration addressed alliance and diplomacy issues cautiously, it set about strengthening Japan's military capabilities in a more determined fashion. The intent, it seemed, was to stretch the country's post-war security norms as far as possible. Indeed, 'The political leadership', according to Samuels (2007, 105), 'was determined to elevate Japan's role in the alliance and enhance its military capability'. With the defence forces active overseas and about to depart to Iraq, the Koizumi administration mounted a substantial agenda setting program. It announced a review of defence capabilities in late 2003 and then set up a Council on Security and Defense Capabilities, which led to the Araki Report of mid-2004 (see Cabinet Secretariat 2003; Bōeichō 2005; Council on Security and Defense Capabilities 2004). This report, which stressed the diverse nature of security threats in the 21st century, was followed by the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), which outlined Japan's shift from maintaining the minimum necessary forces to developing 'multi-functional, flexible, and effective defense forces' that would be 'highly ready, mobile, adaptable and multi-purpose' in nature (Bōeichō 2004b, 465).

The challenge that Koizumi's government faced was to develop and acquire the military hardware needed under this plan within tight budgetary constraints. The government instituted a program to streamline and modernise the SDF, especially by reducing inventory and cutting back on other programs (Bōeichō 2004a; IISS 2007a). Despite these restraints, however, the administration was extremely active. There was an extensive shopping list for new hardware, including refuelling aircraft, helicopter-carrying destroyers, new short-range torpedoes, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). There were also the country's first spy satellites to launch (Uriu 2004; IISS 2007a). But the most significant development—arguably the ultimate reason behind the review process—was the decision in December 2003 that Japan would, after many years of joint research with the US, develop a BMD system (Hughes 2005; Bōeichō 2005). In fact, Ishiba Shigeru, then director general of the JDA, and Moriya Takemasa, then administrative vice minister but later arrested for accepting bribes (see The Oriental Economist, December 2007), had committed Japan to America's BMD system in December 2002. Despite the denials at the time, according to Samuels (2007, 105), 'they had the prime minister's unreserved support' (see also Kyodo News, 18 December 2002; Hughes 2005).

Importantly, Koizumi also pushed to reshape the wider domestic politics of security. He did so, in fact, in a way that combined the approaches of Kishi and Nakasone. In Kishi style, he sought to bring about an institutional transformation. Koizumi's government brought the control of defence and foreign affairs more directly into political, that is prime ministerial, hands. Rounds of administrative reform meant that the role of the prime minister in politics had been changing since the mid-1990s (see Shinoda 2007). Koizumi continued and intensified this trend, making more of the prime minister's new powers and adopting the top-down leadership style championed by Nakasone. In foreign and defence affairs, Koizumi sought to re-balance the authority of the prime minister, the Cabinet Secretariat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the JDA. From late 2001 until mid-2002, for instance, he exploited international and domestic turmoil to shift power away from MOFA (see Shinoda 2007). He also set about reducing the influence of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau (CLB) over key defence issues, especially over the government's interpretation of Article 9 (see Samuels 2004).

While winning over the CLB and other bureaucratic bodies, the administration passed a range of laws to overhaul the operations of the SDF. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, it passed legislation to allow the SDF to operate overseas in wartime conditions for the first time since the Second World War. The passage of this legislation was characterised by its speed: it was enacted on 29 October 2001, less than two months after the terrorist attacks in the US. It was also characterised, according to Shinoda (2007, 98), by 'Koizumi's top-down style of leadership', his utilisation of public support and his ascendancy over both the opposition parties and the LDP. Other changes soon followed. In 2003, Koizumi's administration passed legislation that provided the framework for the SDF to use force to defend Japan if attacked. Later, it passed legislation allowing for the dispatch of the SDF to Iraq (Shinoda 2003, 2006, 2007). Finally, Koizumi oversaw the initial planning that led to the JDA becoming the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in 2007; although, according to reports, he was less interested in this change of name than others in the LDP (Kyodo News, 14 June 2006).

On the constitution, Koizumi's administration oversaw a period of intense work to develop ideas and plans for revision. This contrasted with the debate over revision that had been prompted by the Gulf War in 1991, an event that had led to great equivocation, and reflected the marginalisation of so-called constitutional 'doves' under Koizumi (Hook and McCormack 2001; Hughes 2006). Committees to investigate the constitution, which had already been formed in the two houses of the Diet in 2000, submitted their reports in 2005. They supported the right to individual self-defence in the Constitution and the constitutionality of the self-defence forces but were split, in particular, over the question of collective self-defence (Japan Times Online, 21 April 2005; Boyd and Samuels 2005; Tsuchiyama 2007; see also House of Councillors, Research Commission on the Constitution 2005; House of Representatives, Research Commission on the Constitution 2005). But Koizumi had also set up an LDP 'task force' in late 2004 to produce its own draft revision in time for the 50th anniversary of the LDP in November 2005. Under this draft, published in October 2005, the first clause in Article 9 would remain untouched but the second clause would be revised and expanded. The new draft allowed for the maintenance of a defence force (jieigun) under the command of the prime minister. Under sub-clause 3, this force would be able to cooperate in international security operations and keep public order at home in emergencies (Jiyūminshutō 2005; Kyodo News, 30 October 2005).

As an agenda-setting leader, Koizumi himself consistently argued for constitutional revision. Indeed, Boyd and Samuels (2005, 40) describe Koizumi as 'the most pro-revision prime minister in four decades'. Speaking on television early in his prime-ministership he argued that, 'In the future, (the SDF) should be defined more clearly in the Constitution by recognizing it as a military that would not resort to force' (Kyodo News, 13 October 2001). In 2003, when questioned about whether the SDF was a military, Koizumi responded that 'the day will come when they receive the honor and status they deserve in the Constitution' (Asahi Evening News, 22 May 2003). Likewise, late in 2004 Koizumi announced when opening the LDP's own constitutional task force that 'The time has come to create a new Constitution that meets the needs of a new era' (The Japan Times, 24 December 2004). As the various committees working on the constitution were wrapping up early the following year, Koizumi was urging still greater efforts toward revision. The government, he stated, would 'relentlessly advance preparatory work towards the formulation of a concrete draft for a revised Constitution' (Cabinet Secretariat 2005).

Finally, Koizumi also attempted to transform some of the wider societal norms of security politics. He did not attempt to settle Japan's post-war accounts in the grand style of Nakasone, but instead sought to have Japan's defence institutions accepted as a normal part of the national polity. Koizumi sought to transform these institutions and what they did in a way that would make change a fait accompli. He adopted new policies quickly and with relatively little consultation. Unaccommodating rules were reinterpreted, leading to obfuscation on such matters as collective defence, 'areas surrounding Japan', arms export bans, and combat zones. Koizumi's lack of interest in the JDA's formal upgrade (noted above) makes sense given that, as Samuels (2007, 182) argues, it 'had already become a policy ministry on a par with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs well before its formal elevation to ministry status in early 2007'.

Observing that it was his responsibility to create an environment where the nation paid respect to organisations such as the military, Koizumi also sought to strengthen nationalistic or patriotic feeling. Japan under this new vision should be 'normal' and proud of its military. For instance, within a wider strategy of getting the media onside, he sought to promote the defence forces by speaking at SDF graduation ceremonies, by sending off the troops, and by describing the SDF as a military (Samuels 2007; Cabinet Secretariat 2004a, 2004b; on the SDF as a military, see Sankei Shinbun, 21 May 2003; Tōkyō Shinbun, 22 May 2003). It is also in this context that his visits to Yasukuni are easily understood. In his view, he visited the shrine because contemporary Japan was built on those whose 'precious lives were sacrificed in war' (Cabinet Secretariat 2006; The Japan Times, 16 August 2006).

Koizumi's Gaullism

How did these many aspects of Koizumi's approach compare with Japan's post-war Gaullism? With regard to Hughes' criteria, Koizumi fits in well with the other leaders. They all strongly supported changing most of the post-war Yoshida institutions. On the eventual abrogation of the US-Japan alliance, however, Koizumi's position, like those of his predecessors, was ambiguous. Leaders like Kishi and Nakasone clearly supported the idea of a stronger, more self-reliant Japan; yet, they never really challenged the centrality of the alliance. Indeed, despite some doubt about their sincerity, Kishi and Nakasone were great proponents of the alliance. Koizumi had even less to say on security independence and, in doing little that might have truly upset the world's superpower, continued and perhaps even intensified this pattern.

On this count, Mochizuki might question whether these leaders, including Koizumi, were indeed Gaullists and whether there is an identifiable Gaullist tradition. He might instead suggest that Koizumi followed a long line of military realists who have advocated closer military cooperation between Japan and the United States. Thus viewed, Gaullism becomes merely a 'souped-up' model of military realism: a realist security policy turbocharged with nationalism. McCormack (2007) would likely go further and argue that Koizumi had destroyed the Gaullist agenda. He contends that Koizumi's transformation has actually 'meant the liquidation of some important residual levers of Japanese autonomy, and the acceptance of an even higher level of submission and exploitation within the US global empire' (McCormack 2007, 4).

Yet Gaullists have pursued a more instrumental approach to the alliance than might have been expected of military realists. There is much to suggest that these leaders interpreted the alliance more as a way of achieving goals other than just the provision of security. Of these goals, the objective shared with military realists of advancing security capability is most clearly expressed; yet the question of autonomy continues in the background. Kishi and Nakasone were partially successful in their attempts to connect the alliance to Gaullist objectives. Kishi linked the alliance in particular to rearmament policy, which he pushed forward while in office, and clearly saw as step on the path to greater autonomy. Nakasone used the alliance to push for increased defence expenditure. But he also attempted, albeit with only partial success, to make use of it in his push for a wider, more active international role for Japan. Koizumi too can be seen to have made use of this 'paradoxical logic'. He used the alliance as a tool for increasing security capability while making the most of limited opportunities to pursue autonomous policies.

Conversely, there is little to suggest that Gaullists have somehow inadvertently moved Japan away from these goals. Certainly, there was no abrogation of the alliance as ideological Gaullists would expect. McCormack (2007, 6) argues that Japan has already been subsumed, that 'there seemed virtually no limit to what he [Koizumi] was prepared to do for his "friend", President Bush'. Indeed, he suggests that the nationalist rhetoric was a cover to conceal the reality of Japan's ever increasing dependence on the US and Koizumi's 'naiveté'. However, what Koizumi did for his 'friend', George Bush, was in fact extremely limited when viewed as part of the overall US war on terror. That Japan provided a minimal contribution to the occupation of Iraq is not all the far removed from the choices made by other middle-power allies of the US. And to argue that Japan's future autonomy was liquidated by this contribution is to overstate America's coercive influence, understate Japan's ongoing ability (as a key American ally in Asia) to resist outside pressure, and ignore the greater autonomy—at the domestic level— that will emanate from this action.

Koizumi does seem to have been less fearful of the risk of entrapment than that of abandonment. Or perhaps he saw the potential benefits as outweighing these risks. It is also possible that he gave little thought to strategy but reacted, in his populist style, to events as they unfolded. When viewed as a domestic issue, however, Koizumi's actions were clearly transformative and demonstrate the most important difference between military realism and Gaullism—Mochizuki's idea of Gaullism's linking of security policy to transformation of domestic politics. In essence, Koizumi was able to use the alliance to widen the government's domestic freedom to make use of that increased capability, and in this respect, Koizumi, Kishi and Nakasone had much in common. All strove to transform the domestic political environment, linking this to a substantial revision of Japan's international (military) role.

As such, Koizumi's most significant achievement, in comparison to those of his predecessors, was that he brought about major reform to both the institutional and the normative dimensions of security policy. Significantly, he did this in a way that would allow for an ongoing 'reexamination of Japan's security policy', a re-examination which could in the future include—despite the commitment to the status quo of Koizumi's successor, Abe Shinzō—a 'consideration of the nuclear option' (Mochizuki 2007b, 304). The similarity between this policy and Nakanishi Terumasa's advocacy of the alliance as an interim step on the way to greater future autonomy is clear. This strategy calls for 'a Japan that can say "yes" to the partnership with the United States—at least for now'. But in the future, when the country is ready, its destiny 'is to stand up on its own' (quoted in Samuels 2007, 122). Ultimately, then, what Koizumi achieved was to redefine the domestic environment so that, as Matthews (2003, 77) puts it, 'various nationalist positions once considered radical are no longer thought outlandish.'


In this article, I have examined the security politics of Japan's former prime minister, Koizumi Jun'ichirō. I have also compared Koizumi's security politics to that of previous Japanese leaders, especially Kishi Nobusuke and Nakasone Yasuhiro. The way these leaders approached security provides some context for understanding the contemporary changes in Japan's security politics, including its seemingly increased Gaullism. In focusing on Koizumi and the Gaullist tradition, I have asked two questions. The first has been concerned with whether there is an identifiable Gaullist tradition in post-war Japanese politics and the second with how Koizumi's approach compared to this tradition.

If there has been a Gaullist tradition in post-war Japanese security politics, it has been a minority one, tempered in its idealist convictions by a pragmatic style. It could be argued, given their acceptance of the US alliance, that the leaders discussed here were not Gaullists but military realists—keen to improve Japan's security capabilities but solely within an alliance context. While it has contained a strong element of military realism, Gaullism has nevertheless constituted a distinct, resilient tradition in Japanese politics, one concerned with common objectives, including autonomy, and especially a focus on linking military development to domestic political transformation. Leaders such as Kishi and Nakasone shared many of Gaullism's goals, though they emphasised objectives differently and even changed their own views over the course of their careers.

Koizumi also fitted into this tradition. Although he seemed less concerned about the question of autonomy than his predecessors, he pursued Gaullist policies of constitutional revision, capability enhancement and even some diplomatic autonomy. In terms of linking security policy to domestic transformation, moreover, Koizumi pursued an agenda much wider than those of his predecessors, combining both institutional and normative dimensions in his approach. Arguably, he achieved more success than either Kishi or Nakasone on these fronts, although the scale of his legacy will depend upon the decisions of future leaders. This is because Koizumi's achievement was not so much the creation of a revolutionised security framework but the fashioning of a domestic political environment more conducive to further Gaullist-style revision. It is not inevitable therefore that Gaullism policy will dominate Japan's future security politics in the way that the Yoshida consensus dominated the politics of the Cold War. The plurality of Japan's politics today, especially on defence issues (see Samuels 2007), suggests that other political actors will seek to restrain or redirect these reforms. Nonetheless, at this early stage, it seems that Koizumi brought about a transformation of the politics of security in Japan.

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About the author

David Envall completed a BA (Hons) at the University of Melbourne, Australia, in 1999. In Japan, he has studied at Sophia and Hitotsubashi Universities, completing an MA at Hitotsubashi in 2004. In 2003 David taught on Japan's international relations at Tokyo International University, and he has also worked as a copy editor, corporate editor/writer, tutor and teacher. In 2005 he completed a PhD in the Department of Political Science, University of Melbourne. He is currently an associate lecturer in Politics at La Trobe University, Australia, as well as the book reviews editor at ejcjs. His research interests include Japanese political leadership and Japan's post-war security politics.

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