Is Japan striving for military “normalcy,” hedging against uncertainty, or balancing a more assertive China? Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan has increased defense spending, reinterpreted Article Nine of its once-pacifist constitution, strengthened its alliance with the United States, relaxed constraints on its defense industry, and increased its security ties in Southeast Asia. It has even expressed interest in using its military resources to conduct maritime patrols in the South China Sea, where it has no direct stake in extant territorial disputes. Why? What motivates all these moves in the defense domain, and how “on trend” is it with the rest of the region?
The answer matters for our ability to accurately generalize about the character of the region, but it matters even more for how we understand Japan’s trajectory as a military power in Asia. Any debate about the sustainability of the relative peace Asia has known for the past generation depends on what we are willing to assume about the region’s largest military powers.
Read the full opinion piece at The Diplomat.