Japan and its Increasing Military Boldness
The re-election of Abe and the desire of Japan’s decision-makers to amend the country’s pacifist constitution are just reflections of a much deeper process that is underway in Japan.
Japan is a country that adopted the ideology of pacifism in response to what it did and what it experienced in World War 2. Those horrific memories shaped Japanese foreign policy for the next couple of generations. But as time goes on those memories are fading, and the last of the survivors of that period are passing away.
Japan has since relied mostly on other powers to guarantee its security, particularly the United States. That strategy can work well if those other powers have the same national interests, but of course, those interests don’t always align, and may conflict with each other.
The country is facing the potential of security threats from China and increasingly North Korea. Those threats are immediate and right in its neighborhood. Those threats are not immediate for the United States; they’re more nuisances.
No country wants to rely on another for so much of its core strategic interests. That includes Japan. As much as many of those in Japan may still be content to leave its matters to others, that can’t last forever. Japan eventually will be reasserting itself.
Japan is still a major military, economic and political power. By being passive it has been relatively quiet and modest in its endeavors. That power becomes more pronounced when the country gets more assertive.
That does not mean Japan will be waging war any time soon. Japanese society isn’t yet ready for such a radical shift in its foreign policy. Japan has a powerful military but it has only been reserved for use in self-defense. However, it does mean that the idea of the best defense being good offense is slowly gaining traction. The considerations Japanese ministers have had on reforming Article 9 of its constitution and the desires to install long-range weapons on its soil are just part of a much stronger undercurrent that is propelling Japan to change.
The remarkable thing about Japan is its ability to change its behaviour without significant social upheaval. Japan has gone through many such changes in the last century. Considering its history, it’s unlikely it will behave the same way for the next 25 years as it has for the preceding 25 years.