"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 KISHIDA Fumio at the 2023 Graduation Ceremony of the National Defense Academy

[Date] March 23, 2024
[Source] Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Cabinet Secretariat
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

Today, at the graduation ceremony of the National Defense Academy (NDA), I offer my heartfelt congratulations to you in the graduating class as well as to your families.

Congratulations on your graduation!

I believe the four years that you spent here at Obaradai were four years of great intensity that you could not have experienced anywhere else. Communal life within the boarding system, high-level professional education, and training and club activities pushing you to the limits of your physical ability -- all of these were necessary tests for you to become an officer in the Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

I imagine that there were also nights when you, minds full of worries, talked at length with your fellow cadets about the meaning of all those trials, or your futures, or the future of this nation. During those days, you upheld the principle of everyone working towards the same goal while also cultivating broad perspectives, the ability to think scientifically, and keen senses of humanity. You diligently applied yourselves to your work to arrive at this graduation today. I very much admire your unparalleled efforts and indomitable spirit.

And yet, these four years have also been a time of turmoil for the world. The global spread of COVID-19 resulted in a tremendous number of people suffering and enormous impacts endured at a global scale. I understand that you cadets were unable to hold an entrance ceremony and were subjected to various restrictions in your school activities.

Two years ago, Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine and cases of challenges to the existing international order surfaced, while intensified geopolitical competition and shifts in historical balances of power arose, centered in the Indo-Pacific region.

In particular, in the region around Japan, a rapid military buildup is underway, including nuclear and missile capabilities, alongside increasing unilateral pressure to change the status quo by force. In this way, we are witnessing a historic turning point for the world, and Japan finds itself in the midst of the most severe and complicated security environment since World War II.

Given that kind of security environment, I had three security-related documents formulated, including our national security strategy, in order to maintain Japan's sovereignty and independence and defend both our territory and the lives of the Japanese people. The major objective in doing so is to prevent emergencies from occurring, so that Japan is not subjected to the threat of armed invasion.

As you cadets have learned, the importance of deterrence has been emphasized throughout the world since ancient times. Ancient Rome warned, "If you want peace, prepare for war," while China's Sun Tzu wrote, "Supreme excellence is breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. Therefore, the highest form of generalship is to thwart the enemy's plans." The best policy is preventing war before it starts.

In order to maintain peace and prevent the outbreak of emergencies, Japan, which strives to achieve peace, aims to build up our diplomatic capacity while also fundamentally reinforcing our defense capabilities, and the Government is working as one to realize the targets set out in the three security-related documents.

Reinforcing our defense capabilities, however, cannot be achieved simply by increasing the SDF's equipment or purchasing new gear or gadgetry. The core of our defense capabilities is the SDF members themselves. The functions of our defense capabilities are demonstrated only when each SDF member handling equipment exhibits his or her capabilities to the greatest possible extent and is able to operate systematically and effectively. The role required of senior SDF officers lies in drawing out the capabilities of the SDF members, organizing units, planning maneuvers, and actually commanding and operating the Forces.

You cadets will become officer candidates through the assignment and oath of service ceremony and, after devoting yourselves to further studies, be assigned to locations all around Japan. While there is a wide range of work before you that needs to be done, every part of it is an important duty in making our defense capabilities function. You must never forget that the very core of our defense capabilities is you performing your duties, and that your efforts are indispensable in reinforcing our defense capabilities; your very existence becomes deterrence.

Becoming an SDF officer does not mean you will have an existence isolated from society. I ask you to always be aware that while you are indeed an SDF officer, you are also a member of society. You must fulfill your duties while safeguarding your rights as citizens. And, I want you to take on your duties with a high level of discipline befitting an SDF officer, who is highly regarded and trusted by the citizens.

And, to the international cadets, I expect there were many times when cultural differences left you bewildered. I greatly respect your success in navigating the course to your graduation day today. International cadets who graduated from the NDA in previous years are now making great strides as leaders in various fields back in their home countries. I ardently hope that you make use of your experiences at the NDA to meet with certain success and also serve as a bridge for friendship with Japan.

To the families of the graduates, I am profoundly grateful to you for having entrusted a precious family member to the NDA. The Government will come together in its efforts to prepare working and living environments that are suitable for the graduates as they perform their duties.

Finally, I wish to convey my sincere gratitude to the guests at this ceremony, who have all provided their ongoing support and cooperation. I also express my deep respect to President KUBO Fumiaki and the other faculty and staff members for putting their heart and soul into educating these students day after day. I will conclude my address with my best wishes for the ongoing advancement of the NDA.

March 23, 2024


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

Prime Minister of Japan