Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Japanese – Anzenhoshou

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Alliance, Japanese, Security

安全保障 (あんぜんほしょう)


Relates to security

安全保障 anzen hoshou – safety guarantee; security guarantee
安全 – safety; security
保障 – guarantee; assurance; pledge; warranty

Although anzen hoshou means literally “safety-guarantee” it often conveys the idea of ‘defence’ in a narrow, military sense. The phrase is often abbreviated in the compound Ampo. Ampo suggests not just ‘defence’, but the security framework of Japan – a framework in which the treaty with the United States is prominent. This reference to the United States relationship in the word Ampo is widely recognized in Japan; unlike the case in Australia, however, the term ‘alliance’ (doumei) is not prominent in Japanese thinking about the United States. Doumei is studiously avoided in general conversation by most Japanese because of its militaristic connotations.

Ampo implies the security guarantee of Japan – every time it is used it conjures up idea of treaty, that is to say, whenever the term ‘ampo’ is used it tends to evoke the relationship with the U.S. The term is used quite often in reference to the U.S.-Japan defence relationship, for instance, the US-Japan Security Arrangements, ‘日米安全保障体制 nichibei anzenhoshou taisei’. Ampo is also used loosely to refer to left-wing pacifist opposition to the Japan-US security treaty, and the popular protests against the treaty that have from time to time occurred, since the major street demonstrations in the sixties and seventies to the protests against the Futenma base in Okinawa.

The term used to convey the meaning for ‘security policy’ (ansen hoshou seisaku 安全保障政策) [1] is used quite often when discussing military and defence arrangements, especially regarding the U.S. When discussing Australian security policy, this term is also used. When the Japanese talk about ‘Australian Security Policy’, the term used is オーストラリアの安全保障政策 (Ousutoraria no anzenhoshou seisaku) or 豪州安保政策 (goushuu anzenhoshou seisaku). For instance, from the translated speech, ‘Australia and Japan: Prospect for a Regional Partnership’ by the Australian Embassy in Tokyo:


Beikoku to no doumei kankei ha, wagakuni no gaikouanzenhoshou seisaku no konkan desu. Kore ha seiken no shurui  ni kankeinaku, Nihon ni totte, Beikoku to no doumei kankei ga  gaikouseisaku no ishizue de ari tsuzuketeiru no to dooyoo desu.

Our country’s alliance with the United States remains the bedrock of our foreign and security policy. Regardless of the political administration for Japan, the US alliance relationship will continue to be the similar cornerstone of foreign policy.”

The quote illustrates that despite the domestic political situation of Japanese ‘karaoke politics’– in which prime ministers and Cabinet members come and go one after another, the selection of issues and policies remains unchanged. [2] This political phenomenon was most evident in the resignation of former DPJ leader and Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, after he reneged on a campaign promise to move the U.S. airbase off Futenma, Okinawa – a move which he hoped would demonstrate his determination to end Japan’s security dependence on U.S.’ extended deterrence and subservience to Washington’s policy.[3] However, after Hatoyama’s resignation, controversy over not only the U.S. military footprint in Japan but also whether Japan should moves towards a more self-reliant defense posture remain active political issues.



[1] National Institute for Defense Studies, ‘Japan – Security Policy Under a New Government,’ East Asian Strategic Review 2010, pp.244-268.

[2] See: Ofar Feldman, Talking politics in Japan today, Brighton UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2005, p.138.

[3] Justin McCurry, ‘Japan’s prime minister Yukio Hatoyama resigns’, The Guardian, 2 June 2010,


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