New Strategic Thinking in Japan

Posted in Asia , Other | 04-Nov-04 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The Main Unit of the Air Self-Defense Forces for Iraq Reconstruction Assistance Leaves Japan
The Main Unit of the Air Self-Defense Forces for Iraq Reconstruction Assistance Leaves Japan
The first appearance of Japanese – unarmed – soldiers in Afghanistan and in Iraq symbolized the change of paradigm in Japan's security policy.

This sea of change has gone unnoticed so far in the West.

In two recent publications the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London, addresses this important topic.

The Adelphi Paper 368-9 presents the article "Japan's re-emerging as a "Normal" military power written by Christopher W.Hughes.

The author's summery reads as follows:

" Is Japan re-emerging as a "normal", or even a great, military power in regional and global securities affairs?

This Adelphi paper assesses the overall trajectory of Japan's security policy over the last decade, and the impact of a changing Japanese military posture on the stability of East Asia.

The paper examines Japan's evolving security debate, set against the background of a shifting international environment and domestic policymaking system; the status of Japan's national military capabilities and constitutional prohibitions; post-Cold war developments in the US-Japan alliance; and Japan's role in multilateral regional security dialogue, UN PKO, and US-led ""coalitions of the willing".It concludes that Japan is undoubtedly moving along the trajectory of becoming a more assertive military power, and that this trend has been accelerated post-9/11. Japan is unlikely, though, to channel its military power through greatly different frameworks than at present. Japan will opt for the enhanced, and probably inextricable , integration of its military capabilities into the US-Japan alliance, rather than pursuing options for greater economy or multilateralism. Japan's strengthened role as the defensive shield for the offensive sword of US power projection will only to bolster US military hegemony in East Asia and globally."

Japan does not enjoy the comfortable and favorable conditions most European countries enjoy without in immanent threat to cope with.

For Japan North Korea with its Weapons of Mass destruction and the long-reaching delivery means which can hit Japan as shown by North Korean "exercises".It comes to no surprise that Japan works closely together with the USA in developing a BMD system.

This will decrease the threat from North Korea, but will enforce Japan's dependency, which is the prize Japan is ready to pay.

China opposes this development because of the negative impact to their nuclear arsenal.

China is an emerging world power in Japan's area of interest. A considerable amount of Japan's economic comeback was due to China. It’s not just trade but also direct Chinese investment in Japan. However, China remains an Asian power with Asian interests. China uses soft and hard power to achieve its aims and objectives. If Japan does not want to be marginalized by its big neighbor, it must adjust its own capabilities – including the military, in spite of the feeling that there is no military threat from China.

But, in this context Taiwan plays in. If and when USA would be forced to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion then Japan would be involved in one way or another.

Another perceived threat in Japan is the terrorism. Japan has its own experience with this threat.

Our newsletter written by gives a sound analysis of Japan’s attempt to develop a multi-functional flexible force equipped and trained for power projection that started at a modest level in Iraq. For Japan, this was a quality jump forward – less militarily than politically and psychologically.

Based upon a prudent domestic policy, good leadership and economic and military capabilities

Japan has grown up from the role of junior partner in the early post-WW II period to a reliable and viable partner of USA in the 21.century.

Japan has achieved a fair burden sharing and an intelligent division of labour with the "hegemon" USA. Japan pays back to the USA - unlike some European partners - what USA ha s done with the recovery after WWII.

Japan has decided that their interests are best protected by a strong partnership with USA.

Japan plays an increasing stabilizing role in the volatile region of Asia and beyond.

China is certainly not amused about the strong duo USA and Japan. But it has to take their strength into account while pursuing own interests in Asia and beyond.