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Pacifist No More
Japan Announces Military Buildup, Promises to "Stand Up To China"

The Japanese government set forth its latest National Security Strategy today, a comprehensive 10-year plan to build up its defense forces, invest in new weapons, ships, and aircraft, and prepare for conflict in an increasingly hostile neighborhood. The new strategy will focus on defending Japan’s far-flung islands, with new amphibious transport ships and surveillance technology high on the shopping list. North Korea, China, and Russia are named as possible threats to Japan’s security, and the strategy document (a summary is available here in pdf) calls on the US not to abandon its role as the provider of security and stability in the region.

As the New York Times reports, Japan’s Cabinet approved the new national security strategy alongside a spending plan that raises the defense budget by $12 billion to a total of $246 billion, the first such increase in years. The new strategy, a long-held goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, moves the country in the direction of what he calls “proactive pacifism.” Japan’s constitution bars the country from maintaining “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential”; the new strategy stretches that edict to its limit. As the Times notes, the military upgrades and increased spending “would have once been unthinkable for a nation that long viewed its military with suspicion after its disastrous defeat in World War II.”

The new strategy specifically focuses on China as a threat to peace and security in East Asia: “China is also rapidly expanding and intensifying its activities in waters and airspace, showing its attempts to change the status quo by coercion. Japan needs to pay careful attention to these activities with strong interest. They are also concerns for regional and global security.”

In order to equip Japan in this increasingly dangerous environment, and with an eye on its far-flung islands in the East China Sea, the new spending plan will allow Japan to purchase beach-assault vehicles and American aircraft to support an amphibious infantry force like the US Marine Corps. Officials will also study whether to invest in long-range missiles that could neutralize the threat of a North Korean nuclear strike.

Because of these rising security risks in East Asia, Abe’s long-held plan to make Japan once again a strong nation, militarily as well as economically, has gained more support from the country’s usually pacifist population. Nevertheless, there were protesters outside parliament during the debate over the new strategy and spending plan, which was often heated, the BBC reports. There is still opposition to Abe’s plan to turn Japan away from its pacifist past. His ultimate goal, critics say, is “to take Japan back to the pre-war era, when the emperor was a god and obedience to the Chrysanthemum Throne came above all else.”

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  • AD_Rtr_OS

    Just what the Far-East needs, competing “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Spheres”.

  • Nevis07

    But how long can Japan afford to pay for these expenditure increases? It’s not just their debt load, it’s their demographics (not to mention their energy insecurity). I suppose the fact that Japan owns the vast majority of their own debt is the positive take on debt… But from an American perspective, I would think the US should more aggressively cultivate other diplomatic and military ties to other countries in the region to balance China. This is already happening but it feels very cobbled together. A ‘grand strategy’ which should be explicit, would be more appropriate – still I have yet to read a decent, serious and respected source provide a truly well thought-out whitepaper strategy. In the meantime, we should be staunch ally of Japan – but the next 3 years will be incredibly important for Japan and we’ll find out if Abenomics really works or not. The US can be a stabilizing force, but it can’t operate alone and Japan’s future is just too cloudy to me.

  • TommyTwo

    “Proactive pacifism” provided me with a hearty chuckle. Next up: JSDF – pacem appellant.

    (I suppose it’s too late to suggest changing the “Game of Thrones” category to “Aequalem reactionem” or at least “Newton’s Third Law”?)

  • And why not? Pacifism does not work in a world or region where there are predatory powers like China. And Japan should think of some new aircraft carriers as well.

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