Self-Defense Forces

: 日本防衛軍 【にっぽんぼうえいぐん】 、自衛隊 【じえいたい】
In Japanese, Nippon Boueigun or Jieitai, Abbreviated JSDF (JGSDF, JASDF, JMSDF).

Following Japan's defeat in the Second World War, the US occupation government drafted a new constitution. The aim of the document was to prevent any rebirth of the sort of militaristic nationalism that was a driving factor behind Japan's participation in the war. Among the new constitution's (adopted in 1946) provisions was Article 9, which explicitly forbade Japan to possess or maintain an army, air force, or navy, and that stated that the Japanese nation was officially pacifist. By the 1950s, however, the Communist revolution in China and the looming war in Korea had Gen. MacArthur reconsidering the wisdom of Article 9. Therefore, in 1952, the same year as the treaty of peace between the US and Japan took effect, the United States began to help in rearming Japan. By 1954, the Self-Defense Forces were officially formed to take over the role of protecting the Japanese nation while the United States used Japan as a strongpoint against China.

The forces are split into three main branches, the Ground Self-Defense Forces, Air Self-Defense Forces, and Maritime Self-Defense Forces. As you can expect, the three forces are analagous to other nations armies, air forces and navies. However, the Self-Defense Forces are forbidden by law to leave Japanese territory, with the exception of very specific roles not related to direct combat. Compared with the size of the nation, the Self-Defense Forces are relatively small, as the United States military still has a presence and a role in defending Japan even 60 years on.

However, their very existence has caused Japanese on both sides of the debate to question Article 9. On one side, there are arguments that the SDF's very existence is a violation of Article 9, and that the forces should be abolished as a reminder of the militarism that brought Japan's devastation in WW2. The other view, championed by Nationalists, including some members of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, advocates renouncing Article 9 and elevating the SDF to the status of a full military, with a view of eventually asking the United States to end its military presence in the Japanese Archipelago. (This debate was the crux of the movie Patlabor 2, which depicted an attempted JSDF coup d'etat.) Other nations in the area, including the Koreas and China, watch the debate with interest as well, and rankle at any suggestion of a full Japanese military.

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