We strongly oppose the Official Security Assistance (OSA), a military aid that denies Japan’s non-military principles in international cooperation

[Original issued by NGO No War Network (June 6, 2023); Translated by A. Turner/K. Takemura]

On the 5th of April, the Japanese government announced the implementation of Official Security Assistance (OSA), a means of providing defense and military equipment to the armed forces of like-minded countries. Set out in the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Defense Build-Up Program (hereafter “Three Security Documents”) all released in December 2022, OSA represents a major shift in Japan’s international cooperation strategy.

The NGO No War Network was founded in 2002 in opposition to the Iraq War. As civil society actors who are conducting international cooperation activities, we have since raised our voices in opposition of security legislation aiming to deliver Japan military capability.

We strongly oppose the introduction of OSA for the following reasons.

1. The abandonment of our non-military principles and loss of trust as a peace-loving nation

Since the Second World War, Japan has built its path as a peace-loving nation as according to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. The Development Cooperation Charter, which delineates the principles of Official Development Assistance (ODA), stipulates Japan’s non-military principles with regards to international cooperation, prohibiting any aid that could serve militaries or facilitate warfare.

Some conferences were held in conjunction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) where a host of NGOs conveyed their opposition to OSA on the basis of its violation of Japan’s non-military principles. In response, MOFA repeatedly claimed that OSA is not tied to the same non–military principles that guide ODA as it exists as a completely different framework.

No matter how MOFA insists that OSA is different from ODA, in the eyes of partner countries aid is aid, and the fact that Japan is now becoming a country capable of supplying weapons does not change. Until now, Japan’s pacifist manner of international cooperation has stood as the foundation of the world’s trust and sense of security in Japan. This has served as a strength to us as Japanese NGOs while operating in foreign countries. To introduce OSA would be to destroy that trust. The weapons that Japan supplies will come to be used in international and civil conflicts, and if that leads to death, we will have played a part.

2. The contribution to the great power struggle and escalation of international tensions

The purpose of OSA has been stated to “strengthen the deterrence capability of like-minded countries”. The government has been vague as to who “like-minded countries” refers to, however, upon observing the selection of the Philippines, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Fiji in 2023, it becomes clear to see Japan’s intention to encircle China. Contrary to assertions that “OSA is restricted to the areas that are unlikely to be directly related to international conflicts” (answers by the government in the Diet), OSA is military aid intended to confront China. At this moment, OSA is planned to support the implementation and development of satellite systems and maritime policing, but with the erosion of the “Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology” as signalled in the “Three Security Documents”, the supply of weaponry with lethal force such as fighter jets and tanks becomes possible.

The countries of the Global South, including ASEAN countries, are largely trying to establish a distance between themselves and the power struggle between the US and China. The US and militarily allied Japan, in recognizing them as “like-minded countries”, drag these states into the US-China struggle for hegemony, resultantly aggravating international tensions and fragmentation. Additionally, to provide military aid to countries such as the Philippines, where severe human rights abuses have been reported to be committed by the military and police, implicates Japan in their prolonging.

What we as NGOs have learned from our experience in areas affected by the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, is that force cannot bring peace. Rather than contributing to competitions for power in the name of “strengthening deterrence capabilities” and creating a reliance on military power, we must find ways to develop our diplomacy to emphasize mutual understanding and harmony with all countries and distribute aid that addresses the societal and economic causes of conflict.

3. Aid in support of the Japanese military complex

In a move to recreate Japan as a country capable of war, the ban on military exports was lifted in 2014 when the “Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology” was set out. As of yet, exports of completed arms has been limited to one case in the Philippines. The “Three Security Documents” stated Japan’s intention to strengthen its military industry, and it is not hard to believe that the goals of OSA align with that aim. The details as to how OSA will be implemented have yet to be made clear, but the explanation offered by MOFA has suggested that the partner countries will be supplied with equipment from the Japanese military industry as funded by the Japanese government. This is to say that the government will be spending the Japanese people’s taxes on the purchase of defense equipment, which until now had no domestic sales channels other than the Self-Defense Forces and had low profit margins, to support foreign militaries.

The strengthening of the military industry directly leads to militarization. Moreover, the weapons produced by Japanese companies under OSA funding are likely to be used in conflicts across the world. To believe that the use of aid for this purpose is highly objectionable.

4. No debate and no supervision

Just as the government approved the “Three Security Documents” at a Cabinet meeting last December, the decision to implement OSA was that of the National Security Committee, going without debate in the National Diet. This enormous shift in the foundations of Japan’s security strategy was decided without the consultation of even the Diet.

We expect relaxation of the “Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology” which limits the extent and sort of equipment that OSA can offer, but even this lies strictly in the hands of the National Cabinet without the need for Diet approval.

In addition, although the policy regarding the rollout of OSA clearly sets out “information disclosure” and “reviews and monitoring” as methods to maintain the “preservation of transparency and reasonable use”, there is no mention as to how this will be carried out and who will be responsible. If the resources that Japan provides to their partner countries under OSA are used outside of the bounds of their purpose or transferred to other countries, it cannot be denied that Japan would have contributed to conflict. In these cases, the partner country may restrict the disclosure of information based on military confidentiality, and there is no way to ensure that reasonable use and transparency will indeed be maintained.

We call for the Japanese government to repeal its decision to implement OSA so that Japan may continue its international cooperation on the basis of pacifism and in pursuit of international harmony. We also call for the Japanese government to collaborate with NGOs and civil society in prioritizing aid that promotes peace through societal and economic development.

We, NGO No War Network, will make our opposition to this proposal known. We call on others raising voices for this cause to unite.

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