May 22, 2012
The General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) signed by the Japanese and Australian governments on May 17 is a dangerous agreement which strengthens the two nations’ military cooperation with a thorough protection of classified military information. Japan will conclude a GSOMIA with South Korea as well.
The GSOMIA is designed to beef up military cooperation under the guise of protecting secret data. With the war-renouncing Constitution, it is unacceptable for Japan to create secret military ties with Washington and Canberra by imposing on the public and the media significant restrictions to their right to information that affects the public.
GSOMIA is in actuality a Japan-Australia military treaty
The Japan-Australia GSOMIA aims to prevent leakage of classified military data. The agreement states that a person who leaks information provided from Australia will be punished by imprisonment “with work for not more than five years (under the Self-Defense Forces Act)” or “with work for not more than one year (under the National Public Service Act)”. The ostensible reason for this is to prohibit public workers and individuals dealing with secret data from divulging the data. However, it is obvious that the treaty’s real aim is to avoid public criticism or media oversight.
Foreign Minister Genba Koichiro in talks with his Australian counterpart on May 17 revealed the government’s intent to strengthen the military partnership while putting a blindfold on citizens and the press. He said that the conclusion of the GSOMIA with Australia “will deepen security cooperation between the two nations as well as Japan-Australia-U.S. security cooperation.”
Since the 2007 Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation, the two nations have held five joint military exercises and conducted another five military exercises jointly with the United States. The two nations’ military collaboration has become stronger than ever. The Japan-Australia Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), an agreement concerning provision of military supplies and services between the SDF and the Australian Defense Forces, was also concluded. The Japan-Australia relation in reality is being transformed into a military alliance.
Based on the new defense strategy, the United States has deployed its Marines to northern Australia in order to strengthen military cooperation with Australia. The U.S. is also stepping up Japan-U.S. bilateral “cooperation on dynamic defense” by focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. Reportedly, the Japanese government is considering sending Ground Self-Defense Force personnel to take part in military training exercises there. It will be impermissible if Japan seeks a military buildup with Australia as a preliminary step to build a trilateral military framework centering on the United States.
The rationale for the maintenance of military alliances is no longer acceptable, and it is illogical for Japan to conclude an agreement with the U.S. and Australia to keep even more military information secret. The strengthening of the trilateral military ties will definitely arouse suspicion among other Asian countries and will increase regional military tensions, contrary to the world trend to work for regional and global peace.
Protect the public right to be informed
The Japanese government is also drafting a “secrets protection bill” restricting the public “right to know”. The Japan-Australia GSOMIA requires “appropriate measures” to be taken to prevent classified military information from being leaked, seeing the SDF Law as insufficient in that regard. The agreement with Australia may give the Japanese government an excuse to accelerate its attempt to pass a “secrets protection bill”.
The important thing is protection of the people’s right to know. The government must remember the lessons learned from Japan’s prewar and wartime history. Keeping vital information secret from public scrutiny led to the wars of aggression. Japan should abrogate the GSOMIA it signed with both the United States and Australia.