Supreme command (統帥権)

Supreme command is a power of supreme command and direction to the army.

Supreme command in modern Japan.

In modern Japan, it means capacity and power of supreme command to the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) which are one of the Emperor's powers under the provision of the Article 11 of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. The contents of the power are to establish a regulation of organization or reorganization of the Army-Navy or the working regulations, to decide the personnel affairs and duties, to command dispatch and withdrawal of troops, to decide a strategy, to plan the military operation and to supervise and command. As these were committed to the Minister of Army and the Chief of the General Staff in the Army and to the Minister of Navy and the President of the Naval General Staff in the Navy, the Minister of Army had the responsibility to the military political power, and the Chief of the General staff and the President of the Naval General Staff assumed the military command power.

In a narrow sense, the supreme command meant the military command powers which were decision of strategy, planning of military operation, and the supervision and command committed by the Emperor to the military experts, the Chief of the General Staff and the President of the Naval General Staff.

Under the Meiji Constitution, the capacity and power of the Emperor was used to be assisted by the Minister of State if there was no specific regulations, but it was not written in the Constitution, and traditionally as for the military orders (supreme command affairs related to the strategy and tactics) were assisted not by the Minister of State but by the supreme command staff (the Chief of the Army General Staff and the President of the Naval General Staff).

The conflict of the sphere between the military order and the military government (the administrative affairs about the army) assisted by the Minister of State led to the occurrence of the affair of the supreme command interference and violation of the rights. It cannot deny that the defect of the Meiji Constitution more promoted national socialization in Japan by the end of the war.

The idea of the independence of the supreme command came originally from the facts that the leaders at that time were afraid of the revival of the government by the shogunate if statesmen acquired the supreme command, despite the contradiction to that, as the statesmen who contributed in Meiji Restoration and domain cliques had control over the both politics and military, the problems that occurred later due to the independence of the supreme command did not come to the surface, the anecdote of Masashige KUSUNOKI who died at Minatogawa River because his strategy of the war was denied by the ignorant court nobles in the Northern and Southern Court Period (Japan), and it led to the decline of the Southern Court (Japan). The idea of the independence of the supreme command came originally from the following facts.
The leaders at that time were afraid of the revival of the government by the shogunate if statesmen acquired the supreme command,
Contradicting to the fact above in some points, as the statesmen who contributed in Meiji Restoration and domain cliques had control over the both politics and military, the problems that occurred later due to the independence of the supreme command did not come to the surface. The anecdote of Masashige KUSUNOKI who died at Minatogawa River because his strategy of the war was denied by the ignorant court nobles in the Northern and Southern Court Period (Japan), which led to the decline of the Southern Court (Japan), was well known.

The affair of the supreme command interference and violation of the rights

Note: The provisions of the Meiji Constitution are mentioned. The original is written in Katakana (fragmentary kana), but they are written in Hiragana (the Japanese cursive syllabary) in order to be read easily.

This problem is discussed often as a violate example of the military men, but it should be noticed that originally the Members of the Diet brought up this matter stimulating the conflicts in the army as the means of the political dispute.

Underlying cause

Under the Meiji Constitution, the supreme command of the army belonged to the Emperor, but whether the organization rights (troop organization, budget organization, etc.) were assisted by the Minister of State or, although it was not described in the Constitution, or it was included in the supreme command, because the military orders were assisted traditionally not by the Minister of State but by the supreme command staff (the Chief of the Military General Staff, the President of the Naval General Staff) was the major point of the dispute.

As the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the Article 11 described that Emperor commands the Army and Navy, and in the Article 12, it described that Emperor decides the organization of the Army and Navy as well as the amount of troops, there was an opinion that the organization rights belonged to the supreme command, on the other hand, another opinion was that the organization rights of the army belonged to the Cabinet according to the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the Article 55, Clause 1, saying that the Minister of State assists the Emperor and has the responsibility of the duty.

The constitution of the Empire of Japan the Article 5 said that the Emperor acts the legislative power with a support of Imperial Diet, and the Article 64, Provision 1 said that the state annual expenditure and revenue was committed by a support of Imperial Diet with annual budget, so that the budget for the organization and maintenance of the army should have been decided by Imperial Diet, however, as Supreme Command Staff could make comments on military affairs to the Emperor with full responsibility of the results without confirmation of the Cabinet, (Iaku-joso) the idea that the Minister of State (Cabinet) would not be necessary for the process occupied in general.

Coming to the surface

Despite the Army demanded to reject the conclusion of the treaty of London Naval Conference on Disarmament, at the Imperial Diet opened in the latter half of April, because the proportion of the auxiliary ships unreached to 70 percent comparing to that of the United States, the government concluded the treaty, so that Tsuyoshi INUKAI, the President of the Opposition Rikken seiyukai, and Ichiro HATOYAMA attacked the government at the House of Representatives appealing 'The conclusion of the treaty ignoring the opposite opinion given by the Army means the interference and violate of supreme command,' and following that the Chairman of the Privy Council Yuzaburo KURATOMI showed his attitude to sympathize with that. The Army demanded to reject the conclusion of the treaty of London Naval Conference on Disarmament at the Imperial Diet opened in the late April, because the proportion of the auxiliary ships unreached to 70 percent comparing to that of the United States. Despite of the fact, the government concluded the treaty, so that Tsuyoshi INUKAI, the President of the Opposition Rikken seiyukai, and Ichiro HATOYAMA attacked the government at the House of Representatives appealing 'The conclusion of the treaty ignoring the opposite opinion given by the Army means the interference and violate of supreme command', and following that the Chairman of the Privy Council Yuzaburo KURATOMI showed his attitude to sympathize with that.

Later on, the opposing argument involved the Naval General Staff and right-wing groups which were dissatisfied with the treaty. Even so, the government broke down the opposition of the Imperial Diet and the Privy Council (Japan) with a support of the public opinion and the acknowledgement of Genro (elder statesman) and the Minister of the Interior, completed the ratification in October 2, 1930. Hiroharu KATO, the President of the Naval General Staff then, criticized the interference and violation of the Supreme Command, and he submitted his resignation to the Emperor.
In November 14, 1930, the Prime Minister Osachi HAMAGUCHI was sniped by a member of the right-wing group at Tokyo Station and severely injured (then died in August 26, 1931.)
The Hamaguchi Cabinet resigned on April 13.

The consequence

After this affair, the party government in Japan was weakening. The military began to do reckless things ignoring the decision and policy of the government and exercised its rights against the blames, so that the government lost the resources to stop it.

The reason why the Seiyukai (Rikken seiyukai) rose this matter was that they lost the 17th general election of members of the House of Representatives held that year, and in addition to that, since the period of the former Prime Minister Giichi TANAKA (former Minister of Army, Prime Minister), an association of reservists became the influential support group of Seiyukai which led to the phenomenon of 'pro-militarization of Seiyukai'.

Later, ironic histories were repeated, which means that Tshuyoshi INUKAI, who became Prime Minister tried to do disarmament, was killed by an officer who rose in revolt at the May 15th Incident, then the party government came to an end, and Ichiro HATOYAMA who was confined during the war by the military pressure was accused by the General Headquarters of the Allied Powers and purged as a militarist cooperated the rise of the military just before the assumption of the Prime Minister after the war.

The Russo-Japanese War

The conference in the presence of the Emperor where the Russo-Japanese War was decided to go was consisted of 11 members who were the Emperor Meiji, 5 Cabinet members of the First KATSURA Cabinet (Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Minister of Finance, Army Minister, Navy Minister), 5 Genro (elder statesman) (Hirobumi ITO, Kaoru INOUE, Iwao OYAMA, Masayoshi MATSUKATA, Aritomo YAMAGATA), supreme command staff was not admitted to attend it, and the plan of strategy was going to be made according to the decision at the conference (congruency of politics and strategy with the main leadership of politics).

As for the conference, counter-evidence was given saying 'the Chief of the General Staff Iwao OYAMA and Aritomo YAMAGATA attended the conference in the presence of the Emperor', however the reason why they were there was that they received treatment of Genro and had to be inquired about the state policy, also in the record at that time their titles were described not as 'the Chief of the General Staf' but 'Genro.'
It proved the fact that Gentaro KODAMA, the Vice-chief of the General Staff and Yuko ITO, Director of the Naval General Staff who did not receive such treatment could not attend the conference in the presence of the Emperor.

However, this fact was not known to the military related person except for the executives at that time, OYAMA and YAMAGATA might have been considered to be attended the conference as the Chief of the General Staff, and this became an evidence for the supreme command staff to attend the later conference in the presence of the Emperor, and despite it was completely the opposite to the fact, "a myth" was born saying 'there is no precedent that the decision of supreme command staff was overturned by the decision of the government'.

Furthermore, the Military did not notice the fact that the Russo-Japanese war was based on 'Congruency of politics and strategy with the main leadership of politics' that conflicted with 'the independence of supreme command' which the Military preached, so that the Military tried to realize the congruency of politics and strategy of the war during Showa period with the Military leadership which would not object to the principle of 'the independence of supreme command'.

Substitution of the Minister of Navy's duty at Washington Conference

When Tomosaburo KATO, the Minister of Navy visited the United States to attend Washington Conference (in 1922), a matter on the substitution of the minister of Navy's duty occurred. KATO requested Takashi HARA, the Prime Minister, for the substitution according to the government regulation Article 9.

Hanzo YAMANASHI, the Minister of Army, Giichi TANAKA, the former Minister of Army, and Aritomo YAMAGATA, the Genro, rebelled to appoint the civil officer to the Minister of Military, because it was not appropriate to the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors and the understanding of supreme command in the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, the government regulations of the Ministry of Army and Navy described that the Minister of Military should be the Major Captain and Lieutenant General in commission or reserve duty (The Military ministers to be officers on active-duty rule was not adopted at that time.), and Iaku-joso (making comments on military affairs to the Emperor with full responsibility of the results) by the Minister of Army and Navy included a part related to the supreme command, the substitution of the duty by the civil officer would be the unconstitutional action against the independence of the supreme command which secured under the Constitution.

For that, as a result of the consultation between the government, the Navy, and the Army, the substitution of official activity by the civil officers would be admitted by the government regulations, but the duty as for the Iaku-joso (making comments on military affairs to the Emperor with full responsibility of the results) would be substituted by the Chief of the Naval General Staff, and the Army accepted that the affair this time would not become a precedent. It was in this Cabinet that that Korekiyo TAKAHASHI, the Minister of Finance proposed the theory of the abolition of the staff headquarters.

However, after this matter, an assertion to abolish Iaku-joso, revise the government regulations of Army and Navy, and admit the civil officers to become the Minister of military was given inside Rikken seiyukai due to the opposition to the Military. Afterwards, due to the internal conflict of Seiyukai, Giichi TANAKA was received as the next president from out of the party. Right after the assumption of TANAKA on October 4, when Seiyukai announced the new policy he noticed a section describing 'the abolition of Iaku-joso and a system of a minister of military by civil officers', he inflamed with it, called the officers' meeting immediately and demanded to reserve that part, then declared not to appeal a party policy that would damage the independence of supreme command inside the party.

Go Stop incident
Refer to Go Stop incident

TOJO Bakufu' (Japanese feudal government)

Prime Minister and the Minister of Army Hideki TOJO who could not accept the strategy also served as an additional post of the Chief of the General staff planning the unification of national affairs and supreme command. Shigetaro SHIMADA Ministry of Navy also served as an additional post of the President of the Naval General Staff. Although it was doubted for unconstitutionality at that time, TOJO pushed it.
As the authority was gathered to TOJO, he was backbitten as 'TOJO Bakufu.'
However, it might have been an effective way in order to avoid the matter of supreme command interference and violation of rights.

The right of supreme director of Japan Self-Defense Forces

The right of supreme director of Japan Self-Defense Forces is equivalent for supreme command in current Japan. According to the practical interpretation of the Constitution of Japan and the Law of Japan Self-Defense Forces Article 7, it is prescribed that the Prime Minister holds the rights of the supreme command and director.