Think Tank (4/2021)
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Japanese Views on Hybrid Threats
20 Aug 2021

Professor Chiyuki Aoi, Professor of International Security at the Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Tokyo, was invited by the National Security Studies Programme, RSIS, to share about contemporary Japanese perception of hybrid conflicts, and the corresponding strategies adopted by the Japanese government to combat these conflicts. The webinar, held on 20 August 2021, was attended by academics, professionals, and public servants from various institutions.

Professor Aoi argued that while hybrid warfare and its corresponding strategies have been talked about in various countries for years, the idea has only begun to gain traction in Japan’s conceptualisation of defence needs in recent years. The crux of her sharing session was a rigorous review of contemporary Japanese capabilities in dealing with hybrid threats. She based her assessment on (i) Japan’s institutional capabilities in addressing hybrid warfare across different domains, (ii) Japan’s ability to control conflicts below the threshold of conventional warfare, and (iii) Japan’s approach to strategic communication. She concluded that as the idea of hybrid threats and warfare is still relatively nascent in Japanese defence thinking, there is a need for a deeper layer of doctrinal approach to dealing with hybrid threats. Japan would have to focus on refining its approach to “grey zone” conflicts and this would also entail the strengthening of its strategic communications.

Professor Aoi also addressed the specific strategies that the Japanese government took to combat disinformation. In short, she described Japan’s current capabilities towards hybrid conflicts as a “patchwork of capabilities” and reiterated that more has to be done to build up Japan’s capabilities to deal with such threats.

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