Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Japanese – Bouei | Kougeki

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Defence, Japanese, Offence

防衛 (ぼうえい)

bouei

Relates to defence; protection

The term bouei consists of two characters:

bou – ward off; defend; protect; resist

ei – defence; protection

This meaning is reflected in such concepts “autonomous defence” (自主防衛じしゅぼうえいjishu bouei), in which Japan would seek to develop the capabilities to protect itself and its interests. However, the tension within Japan regarding its own self-identity as a pacifistic nation has undercut the pursuit of such a policy, and has generally seen a rejection of a fundamental role for the Japanese state in guaranteeing bouei. Instead, Japan has since the 1970s developed forces capable of responding to limited aggression, under the assumption that large-scale conflict would necessitate the protection of the U.S. alliance.

The re-designation of the Japan Defence Agency, 防衛庁ほうえいちょう (boueichou), to the Ministry of Defence is 防衛省ぼうえいしょう (boueishou), in January 2007 highlighted tensions in Japanese self-perception and identity. This was demonstrated by the level of domestic and national attention to the idea of ‘defence’.

shou – government ministry

chou – government office

The Defence Agency, as part of the Office of the Prime Minister, is required by Article 66 of the constitution to be completely subordinate to civilian authority. Its head, the director general, has the rank of minister of state. Despite the ‘upgrading’ of the Agency to a Ministry, the name employed to describe the Japanese military, the Self-Defence Forces, remained the same. Previous attempts to upgrade the ministry had been met with concern over political sensitivities over Japan’s past aggression and fears of upsetting neighbouring countries.

The Japanese military continues to be referred to as the Self-Defence Forces, 自衛隊じえいたい (jieitai).

 

攻撃 (こうげき)

kougeki

Relates to offence

The term consists of two characters:

攻 kou – aggression; attack

撃 geki – beat; attack; defeat; conquer

Both terms are neutral, and are used in relation to Japan or to other nations. They are used in a way that suggests that there is little in them that would be interesting from the point of view of the discourse on security, except, of course, that it seems impossible to find reference to the word kougeki, ‘offence’, in relation to any of Japan’s own contemporary actions. However, the term is used in relation to Japan’s aggression during World War II, i.e. within high-school textbooks:

“1941- (Shoowa 16-) nen 12-gatsu yooka, Nihon-gun wa Hawai no Shin-juwan o kishuukougeki-shi, mata Maree-hantoo ni kishuujooriku o okonai, sono chokugo ni Nihon wa Amerika/ Igirisu ni sensen o fukoku-shita. Koko ni Taiheiyoo-sensoo ga hajimatta.”

“On 8th December, 1941 (Shoowa 16) the Japanese armed forces surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and also carried out surprise landings on the Malay peninsula, and immediately after this Japan issued a declaration of war on America and Britain. Thus the Pacific War started.”[1]

Its usage, focusing on Japan as the actor, implies responsibility for the operational action of offense; nonetheless, there is a degree to which the strategic responsibility for the conflict is blurred, given reference to factors, such as the U.S. oil embargo, that drove Japan on to the offense. Nonetheless, there is often an apparent blurring of the issue of strategic responsibility in the discussion of the Pacific War – for instance, through reference to the U.S. oil embargo as a factor driving Japan toward an offensive action.

 

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[1] Christopher Barnard, ‘Pearl Harbor in Japanese high school history textbooks: the grammar and semantics of responsibility’, in J.R. Martin and Ruth Wodak (eds.) Re/reading the past: Critical and functional perspectives on time and value (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 2003), pp.251.

Both terms are neutral, and are used in relation to Japan or to other nations. They are used in a way that suggests that there is little in them that would be interesting from the point of view of the discourse on security, except, of course, that it seems impossible to find reference to the word kougeki, ‘offence’, in relation to any of Japan’s own contemporary actions. However, the term is used in relation to Japan’s aggression during World War II, i.e. within high-school textbooks:

“1941- (Shoowa 16-) nen 12-gatsu yooka, Nihon-gun wa Hawai no Shin-juwan o kishuukougeki-shi, mata Maree-hantoo ni kishuujooriku o okonai, sono chokugo ni Nihon wa Amerika/ Igirisu ni sensen o fukoku-shita. Koko ni Taiheiyoo-sensoo ga hajimatta.”

“On 8th December, 1941 (Shoowa 16) the Japanese armed forces surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and also carried out surprise landings on the Malay peninsula, and immediately after this Japan issued a declaration of war on America and Britain. Thus the Pacific War started.”[1]

Its usage, focusing on Japan as the actor, implies responsibility for the operational action of offense; nonetheless, there is a degree to which the strategic responsibility for the conflict is blurred, given reference to factors, such as the U.S. oil embargo, that drove Japan on to the offense. Nonetheless, there is often an apparent blurring of the issue of strategic responsibility in the discussion of the Pacific War – for instance, through reference to the U.S. oil embargo as a factor driving Japan toward an offensive action.


[1] Christopher Barnard, ‘Pearl Harbor in Japanese high school history textbooks: the grammar and semantics of responsibility’, in J.R. Martin and Ruth Wodak (eds.) Re/reading the past: Critical and functional perspectives on time and value (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 2003), pp.251.

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