Comprehensive Security 2.0: (Re)applying a Distinctive Security Concept to the 3/11 Disasters in Japan

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Contemporary Japanese political leaders continue to evoke the relatively dated concept of comprehensive security in public speech, yet the disastrous events of 11 March 2011 (3/11) in northeastern Japan should have elicited a renewed debate over the concept in both politics and academia. This paper seeks to understand what role comprehensive security, as a cornerstone of the national security policy, had in securitising referent objects in the 3/11 disasters, and how it failed to do so. The six principles of comprehensive security, outlined in the original 1980 Summary of the Report on Comprehensive National Security, are utilised as explanatory variables and overlay the triple disasters of 3/11: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear fallout. The research indicates that a lower casualty figure than otherwise expected can be attributed to the most innovative principle to comprehensive security, natural disaster management, yet other principles of comprehensive security resulted in potentially valuable resources being diverted elsewhere. Meanwhile, the gradual emergence of environmental security onto the national security agenda has ironically accelerated the production of nuclear power, which transformed on 3/11 from a security sector into a new internal threat. Five years after 3/11, the threat remains with scant discussion on reviewing comprehensive security.
Original languageEnglish
JournalElectronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


  • crisis management, comprehensive security, energy security, national security policy, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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