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Assessing Reform of the Japanese Intelligence Community

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Article
This forum compares and contrasts national experiences in the development of intelligence studies from the perspective of seven countries: France, Japan, Israel, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The discussion is structured around a comparative framework that emphasizes five core dimensions that, we posit, are essential to the emergence of this subfield: access to relevant government information, institutionalization of research on intelligence and security in a higher education setting, periodic scientific meetings and networks, teaching and learning opportunities, and engagement between researchers and practitioners. The forum demonstrates how researchers working in different contexts and disciplines have overcome similar challenges to broaden our understanding of secret government practices.
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Since 2012, China’s assertion of its sovereignty claim to the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands has significantly raised the risk of a potentially escalatory political-military crisis with Japan. As circumstances worsen, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has championed major institutional reforms aimed at centralizing Japanese security policy decision-making and vastly improving crisis management. This article assesses these reforms’ significance for ameliorating Japan’s long-standing internal crisis management weaknesses, and enhancing its ability to communicate with Beijing promptly under challenging conditions. While significant issues remain, recent developments – especially the establishment of Japan’s first-ever National Security Council – demonstrate significant progress. Bilaterally, however, important firebreaks remain conspicuously absent.
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