Japan's Evolving Military

After fighting and defeating Japan in World War Two, the United States occupied the country and imposed a constitution forbidding it ever to go to war again. Article nine of Japan's constitution states "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."

With this prohibition, Japan has remained a pacifist country for over 60 years. According to Thomas Berger, associate professor of International Relations at Boston University, most Japanese citizens appear largely content with this military limitation.

Mr. Berger says, "there is still a certain degree of reservation about defense. The Japanese are not about to become the British of the Far East. There is a lingering discomfort having to do with Japan's historical experiences of the use of military force as an instrument of pursuing foreign policy goals. The Japanese don't trust their own armed forces and are not convinced to the same extent we are that the military is a useful means of pursuing international interests."

However, many analysts believe opinion may be changing in Japan. More people seem willing to challenge the pacifist stance and seek to play a bigger role in the world arena. Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation says nationalism is reviving in Japan in response to some of its neighbors' activities.

"Clearly, what is fueling this kind of new nationalism and to some degree a new comfort with military development is they see North Korea misbehaving," says Mr. Clemons. "They see uncertainty about North Korea's nuclear program, and they see China spending a huge amount of money each year on rebuilding its own military capacity. One of the things that China is doing which is very important is that in the next decade and a half, it is going to rebuild its entire navy and turn it into a deep water navy as opposed to a shallow water navy that can go anywhere in the world."

Mr. Clemons says Japan feels the pressure from its neighbors and is keeping a close eye on them. Amending article nine of the constitution is now high on Japan's political agenda.

Mr. Berger also emphasizes Japanese uneasiness with North Korea.

"The Japanese feel in a way that they haven't since World War Two," says Mr. Berger. "They feel threatened, and the main source of that threat is from North Korea. North Korea within the space of the last decade has done a lot of things which the Japanese find highly provocative: firing missiles over Japan, the revelation of the discovery of North Korean spy ships that come to Japan, the revelation that North Korean agents have kidnapped Japanese citizens. All of these things are bringing home to the Japanese public in a way that wasn't true of the past that the international environment remains a dangerous place that Japan needs to do something about."

After the 1946 constitution was established, Japan needed to rely on the United States for its ultimate security. Now both countries are having second thoughts. The United States is pressuring Japan to get more involved in international affairs. Like Japan, it worries about China's growing ambitions and armaments. China's on-and-off again threats against Taiwan are another cause for concern.

For these reasons, says Mr. Clemons, the United States is doing considerable nudging.

Mr. Clemons says, "America is trying to help Japan mature as a nation and trying to help Japan understand that to pursue things like a seat on the United Nations Security Counsel. Japan needs to get beyond its old anachronistic pacifism that is not realistic in a complex and messy world. It wants to help Japan move forward. So we have been trying to help Japan take more internationally prominent positions."

For a country that does not fight, Japan has the world's fourth largest defense budget--after the United States, China and France. Much of this is due to new powerful high-tech weaponry that may intimidate without being used.

Similarly, since the early 1990's, Japan has sent troops on eight UN-led peace-keeping missions where they have not fired a shot. The 600 Japanese troops currently in Iraq are supposed to be involved in a non-combat role, says Mr. Clemens, and that reflects Japanese forces elsewhere in the world.

Mr. Clemons says, "Japan has a small contingent of self defense forces stationed in doing various things related to rebuilding civil infrastructure in Iraq. They deployed mine sweepers; they are taking more responsibility for naval air intelligence, watching the Taiwan Strait and around the shipping lanes in Asia. What is important is Japan's military capacity. Its ships, its airplanes, its intelligence capacity and its spy satellites. It has deployed five spy satellites in the last several years. All of this military capacity is designed to work in partnership with the United States, its primary ally."

Still, the Japanese troops in Iraq are close to guerrilla warfare and could get involved. If so, that would be the first such encounter since World War Two--and quite probably not the last. For better or worse, Japan would reenter military combat.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs