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NSC change prepares Japan for new global realities

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Last year, in an acknowledgment of the growing importance of economic issues in national security thinking, the Japanese government added an economic division to the National Security Secretariat (NSS). On Wednesday, Japan’s newly reorganized National Security Council (NSC) got down to business. It is a smart move, given the new realities of foreign relations and global competition, but it will be a tough job.

The range of concerns is wide and growing, and readying the country for these challenges will require imagination, foresight and mastery of the bureaucracy — skills that are hard to cultivate, especially given the day-to-day demands of the NSC.

Established in 2013, the NSC has been dominated by traditional security concerns. Its four principle members are the prime minister, the chief Cabinet secretary and the foreign and defense ministers. They are supported by the NSS (which has been staffed primarily, but not exclusively, by officials from the foreign and defense ministries).

Today’s great power competition is being contested in other domains, however. The most important is economic. National security now depends on economic success, which requires access to markets around the world, access to cutting edge technologies and access to a rules-based order that adjudicates disputes according to accepted norms, principles and laws, not arbitrary declarations backed by brute force.

“Establishment of the Economic Division is a significant achievement,” says Akira Igata, my colleague at the Center for Rule-making Strategies at Tama University, who works extensively on national economic statecraft. “Numerous countries have realized the need to revamp their government’s capacity to implement smarter economic statecraft, but Japan is the first among industrialized nations to change its core security policymaking apparatus and have it focus exclusively on strategizing and coordinating policies on economic security.”

The new division is intended to better prepare Japan for that world. Officials have been getting ready since last fall. There have been complementary reorganizations in the foreign, defense and economic ministries to support the new........

© The Japan Times