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Saturday, November 25, 2006

First Moves to Form a National Security Council

Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has just set up a 14-member task force to examine forming a National Security Council next spring.

Against the backdrop of North Korean nuclear tests, Shinzo Abe seems determined to quickly form a National Security Council (NSC) that will answer directly to his staff and enjoy real decision-making powers on security problems in the broadest sense: military and diplomatic questions, disaster prevention, security of energy supply and the fight against terrorism. At present Japan has no organization to dovetail intelligence coming from different agencies and ministries.

Between now and February a 14-member task force chaired by the prime minister (see graph below) will study the ways and means of cooperation between the future NSC, the foreign ministry (Gaimusho) and the Japanese Defense Agency (JDA), which don’t want to lose their decision-making powers. As a result, the form that NSC takes will be decisive. The British model of a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) seems more appropriate than a U.S. type National Security Council: decisions in JIC are adopted by consensus between representatives of each ministerial department.

The National Security Council will be headed by a woman, Yuriko Koike, a member of the task force who was recently appointed special advisor for national security to Abe. A former journalist and ex environment minister, Koike has taken a close interest in the safety of Japan’s nuclear power stations. Elsewhere, she is familiar with the Arab world. Speaking Arabic, she studied at the American university in Cairo and has headed the Japan-Arab Association.


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