Contemporary Japanese Defence Strategy: Towards Conflict or Resolution?


Japanese defence policy under the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is accelerating its post-Cold War shift in direction. From a Cold War strategy of anti-Soviet ‘Northern’ defence, Japanese strategy is increasingly towards a ‘southwest’ approach, to potentially deter China, particularly following the increase in tensions over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Concerns also remain over a potential missile threat from North Korea. This change was encapsulated in the LDP’s 2013 National Security Strategy. As well as an increase in defence spending, directed largely towards increasing maritime forces and amphibious strike capacity, a National Security Council has been established. Labelled ‘Proactive Pacifism’ by Abe, this policy shift has the general support of Japan’s key ally, the United States, as it supports the US ‘Pivot’ – a rebalancing of its maritime forces towards the Asia-Pacific region. Japan’s recent defence policy also involves easing restrictions on defence equipment exports, and developing a higher level of security collaboration with the UK, among other EU and NATO countries, as well as among ASEAN. Most controversially, the Abe LDP government plans to reinterpret the constitution, to allow Japan to participate in ‘collective self-defence’ with allied or friendly states. This could be the intermediary step towards eventually abolishing the pacifist Article 9 clause of the constitution. The LDP government claims this will allow Japan to make a greater contribution to international security; however, there are concerns this will only threaten to worsen geostrategic tensions in the region.

Author Information
Craig Mark, Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2014
Stream: Humanities - Political Science

This paper is part of the ECAH2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon