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Land of the Rising Gun
Japan’s Remilitarization is Official

The Japanese Parliament voted in favor of a historic measure to reauthorize overseas military activity today. Passing the legislation was a priority for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and his push has led to significant backlash. Indeed, demonstrators rallied outside the parliament building after the law passed, the latest in a series of large protests over the past few months. Earlier this week, a physical fight broke out in Parliament itself, causing some news outlets to wonder if Abe had the necessary support.

We thought Abe was likely to succeed, which is why you’ve seen little coverage of the scuffles and demonstrations here. Parliamentary Fisticuffs is favorite Japanese pastime, as this excellent Wall Street Journal feature documents. Until major riots break out in the streets of Tokyo (or new elections change the balance of power), this has all been more or less par for the course.

The more interesting story, which we have been doing our utmost to follow here on the site, is what this will mean for Asia-Pacific geopolitics. Abe and his allies want to bring back the Japan of the 1930s, a regional powerhouse that could stand up to China. Since World War II, the United States has cared for Japan’s security needs itself. Whether things remain that way or not—President Obama’s apparent unwillingness to commit American power to tackle crises in Syria and Ukraine has surely been noted by all of our allies around the world—Abe clearly believes that they should be so no longer.

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  • JR

    Japanese are some of the more militarized people on the planet. The fact that US was able to keep Japan from re-militarizing for 70 years is a miracle in and of itself. But to assume Japan will remain pacifist in an increasingly scary world is to nor know Japanese very well.

    • Andrew Allison

      From the previous post: “as Germany matures into a self-confident democracy, some of its leaders are starting to rethink whether the traditional embrace of pacifism—necessary after the Nazi horrors—should endure forever. Surely there is a line between total aggression and total passivity that powerful, fully-fledged democracies can and should walk.”

  • Episteme

    When you’re starting parliamentary brawls against the passage of a remilitarization bill, it strikes me that you’ve sort of given up your hand on that particular issue…

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