Tobe Ryoichi: Japan’s Pre-War National Security Strategy


On March 31, 2017, the Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IISS), Peking University (PKU) held the 12th North Pavilion series Seminar, inviting Prof. Tobe Ryoichi, Teikyo University, Japan, to give a keynote lecture on Japan’s Pre-War Security Strategy. The seminar was hosted by Associate Prof. Yu Tiejun, School of International Studies (SIS), Peking University (PKU) and interpreted by Associate Prof. Bai Zhili, School of Government (SG), PKU.


First of all, Prof. Tobe reviewed Japan’s national security strategy of the first half of the Meiji Era: In fact, Japan didn’t develop a clear security strategy until the Russo-Japanese War. But it always regarded the Korean Peninsula as a strategic focus. Prof. Tobe quoted the decision of the Cabinet meeting, Okubo Toshimichi’s expressions on the Theory of Aggressing Korea as well as the difference between Yamagata Aritomo’s “Line of Benefit” and “Line of Sovereignty”, demonstrating the strategic proposition of “The Korean Peninsula, as a breakwater for Japan, should be avoided from falling into the clutches of hostile powers of Japan”.


In the second part, in the specific review of the national security policy based on Japan’s government documents, Prof. Tobe made introductions to the revisions and background of the policies of 1918, 1923 and 1936. From the emphasis on activism when the national security policy was first developed in 1907, to the juxtaposition of the two theories of fighting a quick battle and preparing for a long-term war in the revision of 1923, Japan fully drew experience and lessons from the Russo-Japanese War and World War I in this process. Till Mukden Incident took place in 1931, the national security policy, revised by Isihhara Kanji, listed the United States, the Soviet Union and China as Japan’s imaginary enemy, reflecting the power struggles in the army and navy of Japan. The policy which was revised and set in 1936 based on the national policy benchmark explicitly called for "Southward" and made Japan to assume its defensive responsibility for the whole Manchuria.

At the end of the seminar, Prof. Tobe briefly described the postwar security strategy: the transition from an empire to an ordinary country and the birth of nuclear weapons radically changed the basis of Japan’s development of its national security strategy. The role which the Korean Peninsula will play in the strategy is also worthy of deep discussions of related specialists.

In the Q&A session, Prof. Tobe made further discussions with teachers and students preset on issues such as the international background of the adjustment of national security strategy, the access to research materials and the impact of China’s domestic situations on Japan’s national security strategy, etc.

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