Security expert urges Japan to focus on ‘deterrence by denial’ capability

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Nobushige Takamizawa

What are some lessons that can be learned from Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and what does Japan need to do to enhance its security capability? National security expert Nobushige Takamizawa argues, in a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, that total security, including economic power, should be assembled to be prepared to exercise a “deterrence by denial” capability against outrageous acts. The following are excerpts from the interview:

The words of dictators such as Russian President Vladimir Putin must be taken seriously, even if you think that “he will never break the rules of the international community.” That is one of the lessons learned from the Ukraine crisis.

Deterrence against such leaders is difficult to achieve. We need a strong and integrated “deterrence by denial” capability to resist the violence. I feel that we have entered an era in which we should strengthen our total capabilities in physical and social elements, including military and economic power. In other words, it is an era in which security will be maintained with all sorts of might at our disposal.

The United States thinks of national security as making full use of its industrial base and economic power in addition to its military power. China has a military-civil fusion strategy in which economic plans are compiled based on its security strategy.

In the current National Security Strategy decided in 2013, Japan emphasized policies of strengthening its power in various fields, such as technological, economic, diplomatic and defense areas, to increase its resilience. However, the policies just remain empty words, don’t they? The latest crisis should be an opportunity to change the situation in Japan and bring together all the power, including human resources and information, to enhance security capabilities.

The strategy will be revised later this year, but how will the government deal with a mutually beneficial relationship with China based on common strategic interests? China will surely take new steps based on the lessons learned from Ukraine because it has been challenging the international order and trying to dominate the region. It has become difficult to maintain the current mutually beneficial relationship with Beijing in a wide range of fields.

The government should choose fields where cooperation is possible, avoiding mutually detrimental fields. In order to prevent the change of the status quo by force from becoming an established fact, it is important to internationalize the crisis management mechanism including the United States and other regions in addition to that between Japan and China, and to hold a transparent dialogue. It is indispensable to redefine the three fields — engagement policy, crisis management and trust building — while having strong deterrence by denial capability.

Economic security legislation is being deliberated in the current session of the Diet. This is a step forward. However, the scope is narrow compared with that of the United States and China. In addition to countermeasures and sanctions, it is desirable [for the government] to carry out inspections, evaluations and verifications of individual policies, so that related plans and projects can be checked in a interdivisional manner from the perspective of actively enhancing its strength.

The national security strategy lists five items as fields of interest — the seas, outer space, cyberspace, official development assistance and energy. It does not include economics, technology or information and communications. In these three fields as well, [the government] should provide guidelines from the perspective of security and remove traditional partitions for policymaking, which will lead to maximizing our capacity.

The Ukraine crisis also shows that it is effective for nations such as Japan, the United States and European ones to have a globally unified front in order to demonstrate their deterrence by denial capability. Instead of creating a framework for each new situation, it is sufficient to make the most of existing cooperative relationships.

I believe that such a front against Russia and China could be created by applying to Europe what we have developed. It is a foundation for cooperation and collaboration in a framework of a free and open Indo-Pacific and the Quad alliance of Japan, the United States, Australia and India.

Although the United Nations played a role in rousing public opinion through the emergency special session of the General Assembly, its functional limitations may be factors that have allowed Russia to take provocative actions. The more deterrence breaks down and the more the crisis deepens, the more important it becomes to restore arms control and confidence-building.

Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it is essential for states with nuclear weapons to be transparent about the status of their arsenal and the principles of their nuclear strategy doctrine. It also serves to make clear to the international community which states lack transparency and have problems. On the U.N. resolution to condemn Russia at an emergency special session, the vote was 141 in favor and 5 against, with 35 abstentions. Based on the pattern of previous U.N. resolutions, this result showed that the effort won a great victory, if not an overwhelming one. It is hoped that this momentum will be sustained.

The pursuit of a nuclear-free world is the responsibility of the country having experienced atomic bombings. While maintaining Japan’s security requires being under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it is also vital to enhance national power, including conventional forces and diplomatic capability, and deepen public understanding of the need to improve Japan’s deterrence by denial capability. These efforts will be central elements in expanding the scope of power that does not rely on nuclear weapons. It is possible to achieve both nuclear disarmament and nuclear deterrence or integrated deterrence through extended deterrence talks.

Nuclear sharing arrangements are a mechanism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has deployed U.S. nuclear weapons on the ground of several NATO member states since the NPT had yet to exist. The essential purpose is not to share nuclear weapons, but to demonstrate the unity of the alliance and share political burdens and operational risks. This will lead to the control of crises escalation, which in turn will keep the peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression. This mechanism can also be applied to Japan. What is important, I believe, is for the entire nation to consider possible methods for Japan to achieve this goal.

— This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Toshiyuki Ito.

■ Nobushige Takamizawa / Former deputy director general of the National Security Secretariat

Takamizawa was born in 1955. After serving as director general of the Bureau of Defense Policy and president of the National Institute for Defense Studies at the Defense Ministry, he was appointed assistant chief cabinet secretary, also serving as deputy director general of the National Security Secretariat. He was also involved in compiling the current National Security Strategy. He served as a disarmament ambassador in 2016 to 2020 and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo.