Shin Godzilla follows the proud tradition of earlier Godzilla movies where the King of the Monsters stomps ashore in Japan causing massive property damage. One government character in the film opined whether the Japanese Government could ask the United States to kill Godzilla. The film even acknowledges the legal reason for the request: the Japan-US Security Treaty. This raises the issue, would the United States have a duty under our security treaties with Japan to fight Godzilla?
The Japan-US Security Treaty is known as the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website).
The Security Treaty was created to “strengthen the bonds of peace and friendship” between the two countries in order to uphold the “principles of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” (See, Preamble to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan).
Article V of the Treaty states the following bilateral defense:
Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.
Shin Godzilla shows Godzilla coming ashore in an evolving adolescent form and smashing a substantial amount of property in Tokyo. The strange beast returned to the sea to cool down before returning to cause more devastating property damage.
A Godzilla attack is objectively dangerous to the people of Japan. Godzilla is not an “armed attack” in the traditional sense of an invading army. The film acknowledged this fact as a reason why the US would not have a legal duty to defend Japan. However, Godzilla arguably is the personification of a walking army crushing life in his rage.
The United States would aid Japan in its battle against Godzilla, irregardless whether or not the letter of the treaty covered Godzilla attacks. The spirit of the treaty would validate the Japanese government making a request for military assistance.
There is a bigger foreign policy issue: Treaties for mutual defense are not predicated on international trade balances; defense treaties are based on the combating a common danger. A giant amphibian that breathes atomic fire would be a danger to every human on Earth. The United States would coordinate with the Japanese Defense Force in fighting the beast. Expect both militaries to hit Godzilla with everything in their arsenals.
A Godzilla attack would be reported to the United Nations Security Council because of the immediate threat to Japan. Moreover, Godzilla is a walking death machine. No country would be safe from Godzilla swimming across the Pacific and making landfall. Nations could elect to help fight Godzilla in Japan or wait to fight him in their own country.
Japan would not have to fight Godzilla alone. The United States values Japan as one of our closest allies over the last 70 years. While both countries have never faced the fictional threat of Godzilla, America would be there to fight the monster with Japan. The film’s climax does show both countries working together to fight the common threat, which was the intent of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. Just none of the drafters wrote it expecting to fight Kaiju.