By Mu Xiaoming, PLA National Defense University (NDU)
Japan and France recently held diplomatic and defense "2+2" talks and reached consensus on signing the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA).
This means that France will become the fourth country to sign the agreement with Japan after the U.S., Australia and the UK. These countries "may jointly intervene in major situations" that threaten Japan's security, providing material support for Japan's military operations.
The ACSA is an agreement between the Japan's Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and foreign militaries for provision of mutual material support. In essence, it is a letter of intent to implement a range of mutual logistical support by the armed forces of the signatory countries.
Under the agreement, the parties can provide each other with supplies and labor support such as food, water and fuel in joint training, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.
On April 16, 2017, the Japanese House of Councilors passed the newly revised ACSA between Japan and the U.S., Japan and Australia and Japan and the UK. The new agreement stipulates that in the face of a "significant impact" situation, Japan can provide logistical support such as ammunition to the U.S., Australian and UK troops, even it is not directly attacked.
In addition to the ACSA, Japan has been actively pushing the signing of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with Australia and the UK, and was doing so during Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to Japan in January.
Once this agreement is signed, Japan will further break the restrictions of its peace-based constitution and the JSDF will be able to conduct training and exercises in relevant countries.
It is not hard to see that the main driving force for the defense cooperation with the UK, France and Australia is Japan. Because of its peace-based constitution, Japan does not have the right to declare war or engage in combat. Therefore, in most cases, it is the JSDF that provides logistical support to other countries. Japan seeks lifting of the military ban on "use of force abroad" and is therefore willing to sign such agreements.
The Article 9 of Japan’s constitution does not allow it to maintain a fighting power and prohibits it from sending troops overseas. However, following its post-war economic recovery, Japan became the second largest economy in the world and therefore began to push forward the strategy of being both a political and military power.
After Abe took office for the second time, he spared no efforts to make room for overseas military activities of the JSDF and sped up so-called "military normalization". Japan's parliament approved the new security law submitted by Abe's government and lifted the requirement for only collective self-defense in September 2015.
The JSDF now has the right to use force freely on a global scale. Japan has bypassed the peace-based constitution and realized the long-sought goal of "military normalization". The new security law greatly reduces the threshold for Japan to engage in a war or take the initiative to intervene in international armed conflicts and allows Japan to follow the U.S. in its involvement in regional and international affairs.
Japan is also trying very hard to join with the so-called "countries with same values" such as UK, France and Australia in order to diversify its security cooperation partners while striving to strengthen its relations with the United States.
In particular, after the entry into force of the new security law, Japan hopes to strengthen its ties with the U.S.-led alliance system by supporting agreements such as the ACSA and the VFA. Japan also has given new rights to the JSDF on the operational level to promote the normalization and institutionalization of sending troops overseas.
In recent years, Japan has gone further and further away from pacifism under the banner of "military normalization". The international community must maintain a high degree of vigilance and prevent Japan from becoming a threat to international peace and security by further ridding itself of the post-war regime in the name of expanding defense exchanges.