"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Graduation Ceremony of the National Defense Academy

[Date] March 21, 2016
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Today, it is an honor to be here at the graduation ceremony of the prestigious National Defense Academy (NDA). I offer my heartfelt congratulations to the graduating class who will carry central responsibilities for Japan's national defense.

Congratulations on your graduation.

As the Commander-in-Chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF), I am reassured and deeply impressed with your highly refined discipline and your truly valiant manner. On this day that you take a new step as officers of the SDF, I would like to take this good opportunity to make some remarks.

North Korea has gone ahead with launching ballistic missiles following its nuclear test. Provocations are conducted repeatedly. They constitute direct and grave threats to the security of Japan and are totally unacceptable. In southwest Japan, approaches to Japan's airspace and invasions into territorial waters have been repeatedly conducted. Scrambles against aircraft of unknown nationality have increased sevenfold in the last ten years. Furthermore, the operations of foreign vessels have been on a steady upward climb. The threat of terrorism has spread globally and is becoming ever more serious. Last year, Japanese nationals also became victims of terrorism.

What you will be facing are such "realities."

Whether we like it or not, the international situation is changing constantly, and the security environment surrounding Japan is increasingly severe. We cannot turn a blind eye to this stark reality. Nevertheless, it is our primary responsibility as the Government to firmly secure the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people in any situation. We are committed to building a solid foundation to fulfill this responsibility and to hand down peaceful Japan to the generations of our children and our grandchildren. Following a careful review of this, we arrived at a conclusion, which is the Legislation for Peace and Security.

"In case of emergency, I would strive to complete duties, which might put myself in danger, as entrusted by the nation."

The importance of your oath of service is something that is always engraved in my mind as Commander-in-Chief. The mission entrusted to members of the SDF continues to be one that could entail danger. However, all this is to decrease the risks to the Japanese people. Your mission is truly a noble one. You have decided to embark on this challenging mission of your own will. I am proud of you, and Japan is so proud of you.

Last year, in the wake of heavy rain in the Kanto and Tohoku regions, the SDF rushed to the scene of the terrible flooding and saved many lives. Afterwards, I received a letter from a boy who was rescued by an SDF helicopter. It is a heartwarming letter with all the innocence of a child. He wrote, "When I grow up, I want to join the SDF and rescue people." You steadily fulfill your mission regardless of the dangers in your way. This is deeply engraved in the hearts of many people. It was thus a natural consequence that the percentage of Japanese people who have a favorable impression of the SDF reached a record high of 92%. The people trust you and heavily rely on you. With this etched in your mind, I would like you to commit your all to performing your respective duties with a strong sense of mission and responsibility.

It is not only the Japanese people that rely on you. Vessels from around the world rely on the SDF in the Gulf of Aden, a major artery of the world where 20,000 vessels transit every year. In these waters, the number of pirate attacks that used to exceed 200 a year has gone down to zero last year. This is a remarkable world-class achievement.

On top of such international acclaim that the SDF has earned, last year an SDF officer became the commander of the multinational Combined Task Force for the first time in the postwar period. Two staff members from the Royal Thai Navy were also dispatched to its headquarters. I understand the two strongly requested to be sent to the headquarters upon hearing that the commander of the Combined Task Force would be an SDF officer from Japan. Both of them graduated from NDA and are your seniors. After the mission was completed, Commander Panyasiri from the 43rd graduating class of NDA said as follows: "We were able to form a sense of harmony and solidarity within the Combined Task Force because we put emphasis on the Japanese 'spirit of harmony' that we learned at NDA." There is no doubt that the rigorous but enriching learning opportunities and strong ties formed among classmates here at Obaradai served as a major driving force that led the first postwar mission to success.

In attendance here today are also international students from Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, the Republic of Korea, Timor-Leste, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Mongolia. I have high expectations that you will also play significant roles for the peace and stability of the world, together with Japan. Similarly, I hope that as future officers of the SDF you will have a global perspective.

The fields in which the SDF is actively involved are expanding globally and rapidly. I have so far visited 63 countries and regions and held over 400 summit meetings. Almost every time, defense cooperation is one of the major topics of discussion. The cooperation of the SDF, leveraging its advanced capabilities, is being requested, such as for capacity building as well as equipment and technical cooperation.

No country can ensure its security only by itself any longer. In such an era, strategic international defense cooperation is essential not only for the peace of Japan, but also for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and by extension, of the world. World peace rests on your shoulders. I would like you to have this spirit in mind and hone your skills every day while putting the world within your horizon.

"I have great appreciation for the Japanese SDF."

"Hold Japan in high regard."

A boy who was taught this from a young age from his grandfather later joined the military forces and aspired to study here in the foreign town of Obaradai. He is now your junior. Master Sergeant Piseth is a student from Cambodia. His grandfather worked with your seniors as a local police officer when the SDF participated in its first PKO in Cambodia. According to MST Piseth, his grandfather used to tell him about the careful and attentive work of the SDF and his memories of the SDF members being kind to school children and children in rural areas. He always said without fail that, "Thanks to Japan, the current Cambodia exists."

24 years have passed since then. In the meantime, SDF members have continued to work tirelessly for the local people and the peace of the world in Mozambique, Golan Heights, Timor-Leste, Iraq, Nepal, Haiti, and at this very moment, South Sudan. The world praises, appreciates, and relies on such SDF members.

Under the banner of Proactive Contribution to Peace, the SDF will be committed more than ever to international peace. The Legislation for Peace and Security has earned global support and is highly appreciated. It also has strong endorsement by Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines which became a World War II battleground, as well as the United States and European countries with which Japan was at war. I hope that you will take pride in this fact and undertake your new mission with confidence.

Today, you will leave here and set foot in your respective fields. There is nothing I value more than information from the field. Every week I receive reports about the status of SDF operations from security staff, including the Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff. Many issues are discussed and decisions are made based on information from the field. When, where, and what actions is the SDF taking? Each and every activity conducted in the field that you will take part in is directly linked to Japan's national interests. I would like you to bear this in mind as you engage in your mission.

Over 20 SDF members, including flag officers, colonels/captains and lieutenant colonels/commanders, work under me, as part of the National Security Council, which serves as the control tower of security policy. These members support me by drawing on their high level of expertise and extensive experience in working with officials from other ministries and agencies.

NDA has offered integrated educational programs for officer candidates of the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces aiming to overcome the vertically segmented prewar organization of the Army and Navy, and have made great achievements. However, it is no longer sufficient to simply integrate the GSDF, MSDF, and ASDF. Comprehensive security policies need to be promoted beyond the confines of the SDF and the Ministry of Defense, that is to say, by the Government collectively.

I would like you to carry out your mission by keeping your horizons wide open. It is my sincere wish that in the future, there will be some among you who will go on to become the right hand of the Commander-in-Chief/Prime Minister and support his or her important decision-making process. I eagerly look forward to your exponential growth based on the experiences you accumulate in the field.

Japan secured a historic victory in the Battle of Tsushima more than 100 years ago. There in the field was Captain Manuel Domecq Garcia of the Argentine Navy as a war observer. In a report, he analyzes the reasons behind Japan's victory as follows: "Japan secured victory in the Battle of Tsushima not only because of its desire and passion to secure a victory. It gained victory as a result of researching every small detail without neglecting to take all precautionary measures." He also goes on to say, "The outcome of the Russo-Japanese War was a consequence of conducting perfect research, readiness, and preparations." No mission can be successful without necessary and sufficient training, and making all possible preparations. Missions in the field are so hard that they cannot be completed through force of will alone.

New missions will be assigned in accordance with the Legislation for Peace and Security that will enter into force this month. To ensure that SDF members in the field can perform missions appropriately while securing their safety, we must make thorough preparations while anticipating a range of scenarios. As those about to set out on the path of becoming SDF officers, I would like you to make infallible preparations in your respective fields to fulfill your missions.

In Japanese, there is the saying: "Hyakuren Seiko" (temper steel one hundred times to make steel). Just as strong steel is made by tempering steel one hundred times, people grow by undergoing a series of rigorous training of the mind and body. The saying teaches us to become people who can triumph over any difficulty. I would like the graduating class to become "steel that has been tempered one hundred times" in order to protect the people of Japan. With this mindset, I would like you to endure all of your rigorous training and missions, and not cease in your efforts.

Now to the families of the students, as Commander-in-Chief of the SDF, I would like to express my deep appreciation for sending your precious family members to become SDF members. As you entrust them to us, I pledge to take all possible means to enable them to execute their duties with care.

Finally, I would also like to express my respect to President Kokubun and the rest of the faculty and staff, who have spared no efforts to cultivate the graduates. Furthermore, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the guests and to the graduates' families for their invariable understanding and support towards NDA. I close my address wishing for the continued success of the graduating class and the further development of NDA.

March 21, 2016

Shinzo Abe

Commander-in-Chief of the Japan Self-Defense Forces

Prime Minister of Japan