Japan, Intelligence and Security

Japan, Intelligence and Security

Japan is one of the oldest nations in Asia. Over the past two hundred years, the nation has struggled with its desire to retain its national culture while absorbing Western technology and economics. United by a strong imperial government, Japan waged war against its Asian neighbors for the first half of the twentieth century. The nation's defeat by Allied forces during World War II led to a period of United States occupation, rebuilding, and complete demilitarization. After decades of recovery, Japan reemerged on the international stage as a democratized and economically robust nation.

In 1997, the Japanese government unveiled a plan for wide-scale centralization and reform of the nation's intelligence community. Hoping to consolidate the myriad of small intelligence agencies and bureaus, the plan called for the creation of super-agencies that combined military and civilian, foreign and domestic intelligence operations. Most of Japan's intelligence services are now controlled by the nation's Japanese Self-Defense Force, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Japan's central intelligence agency is the Naicho, or Cabinet Research Office. Only 100 personnel, all members of the Office of the Prime Minister, staff the agency. Naicho operations focus on the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence information, including that which is gathered by other national civilian and military intelligence forces. The agency coordinates inter-agency intelligence operations and acts as liaison between the intelligence community and the government, reporting to the prime minister and legislature when necessary.

The Bureau of Defense Policy, the government ministry which drafts Japan's defense policy and coordinates defense efforts, maintains the Jouhou Honbu, Defense Intelligence Office (DIO). The DIO is divided into two operational sections, the First and Second Intelligence Divisions. The First Intelligence Division, now known simply as the Intelligence Division, conducts domestic intelligence and security operations. Its general mission is to procure and process information relating to threats to Japan's national security. The division employs its own counterintelligence and anti-terrorism experts. The Second Intelligence Division is responsible for foreign intelligence information, and is now known as the International Planning Division.

Intelligence community reforms in the 1990s concentrated their centralization efforts on the former Defense Administration (DA). The old agency divided intelligence operations among several internal bureaus, each of which maintained their own action forces and military support teams. The Defense Intelligence Headquarters (DIH) serves as nerve center for the new intelligence agencies that were formerly DA intelligence bureaus. The DIH conducts both foreign and domestic intelligence operations and manages various specialized sources, including human, signals, communications, and remote intelligence. The DIH also employs both civilian and military agents, and maintains its own analytics, logistics, and research force to process intelligence information.

Despite consolidation, centralization, and reform efforts, Japan's intelligence community has not yet completed its structural transformation. Many small bureaus continue to operate, and there is substantial overlap of the duties of various agencies.

Japan's economic success has made extensive counterintelligence and anti-industrial espionage measures a primary concern of the nation's domestic intelligence community. The nation's proximity to more volatile states in Southern Asia, and occasional terrorist attacks in Tokyo, prompted Japan's intelligence services to extensively cooperate with international and foreign intelligence and security organizations. Currently, Japan participates in the international initiative to combat global terrorism, and helps to monitor the proliferation of weapons in Asia.



McClain, James. Japan: A Modern History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

Mercado, Stephen C. The Shadow Warriors of Nakano: A History of the Imperial Japanese Army's Elite Intelligence School. Washington, D.C.: Brasseys, 2002.

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