The Sun Rises in the East?

 

640px-Flag_of_Japan.svgSince its defeat in the Second World War and the adoption of its 1947 Constitution, Japan — the World’s third (formerly, second) largest economy, and a country with one of the longest and proudest warrior cultures in history — has essentially adopted the military policy of Switzerland. Apparently, no more:

[Prime Minister Shinzō] Abe’s coalition pushed through the legislation a day and a half after a wrestling match in a parliamentary committee, where burly ruling-coalition lawmakers warded off opposition members who swarmed around the committee chairman in an attempt to block passage. For the first time in the 70 years since World War II, the new laws will give the government power to use the military in overseas conflicts even if Japan itself isn’t under attack. Mr. Abe said that will make possible a closer alliance with the U.S. in cases such as a war on the Korean peninsula or a blockage of sea lanes that threatened Japan’s security.

A few things of note:

  • The general consensus among Japanese legal scholars is that the legislation is in violation of the Japanese Constitution. I can’t claim any great knowledge here, but it’s hard both to see how this legislation would conform to famously pacifist Chapter II, Article 9. On the other hand, much the same could be said of the existing Japanese Self-Defense Forces. The topic has apparently been controversial for decades, with Japan’s judiciary having a history of being deferential on the subject.
  • Though Abe’s coalition holds a majority in the Japanese Legislature, his government is unpopular, and the the legislation has sparked some of the largest protests in recent Japanese history, with rallies hosting between 10,000 and 30,000 people. More interestingly, there’s been a large contingent of student groups involved, something Japan has not seen in decades (voter turnout among young Japanese is famously low). Much of the substance of these protests concerns the potential to get dragged into American wars. The protestors seemed much less interested in the prospect of Japan potentially dragging its allies into its simmering conflicts with China and North Korea.
  • Also recently, Abe’s government has lifted bans on Japanese weapon exports. Though little has come of this and related reforms so far, it has the potential to turn what has been a very safe, insulated sub-industry into something much more dynamic and potent.

So, Ricochet: a good development or a bad one? I’m cautiously optimistic — I’d imagine the weapons industry news in itself A Very Big Deal™, and one that will benefit NATO allies immensely — and I’ve generally been frustrated with “allies” acting more like protectorates than partners (at least the Japanese had been honest about it). On the other hand, it’s hard to hear this news without at least a little concern that the famous quip attributed to Admiral Yamamoto about America might one day be applied to his own country.

There are 29 comments.

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  1. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge
    Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr.
    @BartholomewXerxesOgilvieJr

    As a matter of policy, I think it’s time that Japan be allowed to have a fully capable military. The country has completely remade itself; several generations have passed, and the militaristic Japan of the Shōwa era no longer exists.

    I am, however, a bit concerned about seeing this happen in violation of the Constitution, if that is indeed what is happening. We’ve had enough of that sort of thing in this country. I’d rather see Japan formally rescind or amend Article 9, although I suspect that would be hard to do.

    • #1
  2. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Given the existential threats that surround Japan, I would rather have a more capable ally in the region to help ward off potential Chinese and N Korean aggression. It’s time the US stopped shouldering the burden for the vast majority of East Asian security.

    • #2
  3. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Japan should help us by paying for our support, they don’t need to revise their constitution and their samurai heritage. Maybe they could pay to refurbish Subic Bay and the Philippines could let us “rent” it.

    • #3
  4. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson
    @DanHanson

    This seems to me to be a direct result of the Japanese no longer trusting that the U.S. has their back – especially with regards to China where U.S. policy under the Obama administration has been to essentially cave to every provocation and territorial expansion.

    • #4
  5. MichaelC19fan Inactive
    MichaelC19fan
    @MichaelC19fan

    The dirty little secret is Japan has a very capable military. In absolute terms they are a top 10 country in spending. Their equipment is top notch with, of course, the latest in technology.

    • #5
  6. Could be Anyone Member
    Could be Anyone
    @CouldBeAnyone

    Japan does not have the same capacity of manpower that the U.S.A. has hit this reformation, that will result, towards a formally recognized Japanese Military will most likely be a good developement. Traveling the world and seeing the entire panoply of humanity trends towards conservative values because you are forced to compare ideals with reality (not saying the two are incompatible, rather that one needs to have some introspection). Having Japan’s defense forces formally recognized and deployed, perhaps with the UN or in other matters, would help shape Japan’s populace to a more conservative bent.

    In this sense, the Abo Coalition seems to actually care about self preservation and pulling some weight and that is to our benefit. Contrast such movements with the more pacifist and non interventionist Europe, that seems more happy to concede than defend. If the Japanese do in fact rebuild/formalize their military to some degree than this will strengthen our values in the east and serve to give China more pause in their currently ambitious behavior.

    This does, however, come with a hitch that you mentioned. The Japanese youth have more or less been insulated to a degree and are reacting negatively to this change in law (or at least those protests do). Many social trends, like stuffed animal cafes and crying parties, from Japan seem to be the result its 1st world luxury bought predominantly by our investment in men and wealth. Hopefully this 10,000-30,000 youth are not representative of the whole population and I time Japan will be a strong ally for our views in the world.

    The unconstitutional action ,though, is the largest issue. To my understanding we imposed that amendment on them, but maybe during the next US presidency the issue can be resolved or they can rescind that amendment themselves.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There are two possible explanations: (1) it is yet another instance of the Obama/Kerry/Clinton administration trying to hand off U.S. power, authority, and obligations to some other country, or (2) the poor Japanese are watching the Obama/Kerry/Clinton administration with great fear for their own survival.

    The Democrats drive me nuts.

    And no one will get a straight answer from the Obama administration or the Japanese.

    PS: I worked for a publisher that published a textbook about Japan. The art editor came up with a design with the red sun for the cover, and the authors had a conniption. It was considered the worst possible imagery for a book about Japan.

    I don’t know if that has changed, and I don’t remember what the negative association was.

    And perhaps it is not a problem anymore. :)

    • #7
  8. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    The Japanese lack the human capital to be a real threat to anyone else.

    But in terms of hardware and even a largely-unmanned physical force, Japan could become able to defend itself, and export some handy toys to Bad Guys OR Good Guys the world over.

    I think this is all to the good. Countries should have the ability and desire to defend themselves.

    • #8
  9. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    This sets the stage for a Japan-India alliance.

    India had been working with Russia but Russia is courting Pakistan.

    • #9
  10. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    What the Democrats either don’t understand or don’t care about is that once the United States abandons the podium as the leader of the free world, it has no control over who will take its place.

    • #10
  11. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin
    @TheCloakedGaijin

    iWe:The Japanese lack the human capital to be a real threat to anyone else.

    I just hope their future robot army and air force are on our side.

    • #11
  12. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    The Cloaked Gaijin:

    iWe:The Japanese lack the human capital to be a real threat to anyone else.

    I just hope their future robot army and air force are on our side.

    Robots are never on our side.

    • #12
  13. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    This development is good for both Japan and the United States.

    • #13
  14. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Mike LaRoche:This development is good for both Japan and the United States.

    I hope you are right. It is allowing Japan to defend itself–a good conservative step to take.

    • #14
  15. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    I think this is a very good development.  Given we’re at a population disadvantage in the region if it ever came to a war, their numbers alone would be helpful.  But given their technological savy, they could really add to our technological advantage, and of course they are the third largest economy.

    And I am sufficiently confident they will be a good ally.  Actually I think I’m more confident in Japan being a good ally than Germany, but don’t take that to mean Germany is not and would not continue to be a good ally.  I’m just a little leary in placing total confidence in Europeans.

    • #15
  16. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    MarciN:What the Democrats either don’t understand or don’t care about is that once the United States abandons the podium as the leader of the free world, it has no control over who will take its place.

    Better Japan than China.

    • #16
  17. Garret Hobart Inactive
    Garret Hobart
    @GarretHobart

    I, for one, welcome full Japanese participation in all future American military engagements.  I strongly believe the balance of power in the 21st century will turn on our strategic partnerships in Asia and Japan will always be a critical ally as the Great Game moves farther and farther east in the decades ahead.

    However, the military importance of Japan is limited by its demographics.  War is a young man’s game.  With a median age of 46.1 and rising, today’s Japan necessarily lags behind other nations in martial appetite and fighting capacity.  A nation of parasite singles and empty cradles is much more likely to be an advocate for peace than a partner in war.  Barring a major change in Japanese demographics, don’t expect to see a meaningful Japanese force fighting alongside Americans any time soon.

    • #17
  18. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Indeed, it’s good news — and important news — that Japan is willing to take more responsibility for its own defense.  (And, yes, in part it’s a response to our country’s withdrawal from world leadership.)

    Garret Hobart is dead-on to point out that Japan’s catastrophic demographic death spiral will limit the country’s ability — and, even more, it’s willingness — to fight.

    Here is what may be the ONLY fact about Japan you need to know:  Unicharm, which is the largest manufacturer of diapers in Japan, recently announced that it is now selling more adult diapers than baby diapers.  Simply put, the world’s third-largest economy is committing national suicide….

    • #18
  19. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    I agree entirely with GH (#17).  We should welcome Japanese help on the international scene.  Japan has proven itself to be a solid ally, and is the most important counter-weight to China.

    To follow up on the demographic issue, here is Japan’s population pyramid as of 2014:

    JA_popgraph 2014

    For military purposes, the critical group is males age 20-29, which totals about 6.5 million.  As you can see, the numbers are declining, with annual births of a bit over 1 million (about 500,000 males).

    For comparison purposes, here is the population pyramid for the US in 2014:

    US_popgraph 2014

    Here the critical group is males age 20-29, totaling about 23 million.  Overall, US births are about 4 million/year, with just over 2 million males.

    So in the coming couple of decades, the US will have a population edge of about 4:1 over Japan in males of military age.  Overall, US population will be about 2.5 times that of Japan.

    Nevertheless, Japan is the most populous and wealthy First World country after the US, and can make a very important contribution.

    For further comparison, the number of annual male births by country are approximately:

    U.S.  –  2 million
    Japan – 500,000
    UK  –  400,000
    France  – 400,000
    Germany  – 350,000
    Italy  –  275,000

    • #19
  20. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I think it is overstating things to declare that Japan is committing suicide by not having enough babies.  If you take the population of Texas, plus every state west of Texas including Hawaii and Alaska, plus 9/10ths of the population of Canada, that’s how many people are in Japan.  They have the land area of Montana.  I know if I lived there I’d wish for a little depopulation.

    • #20
  21. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson
    @DanHanson

    MarciN:

    Mike LaRoche:This development is good for both Japan and the United States.

    I hope you are right. It is allowing Japan to defend itself–a good conservative step to take.

    Japan has always been able to defend itself.   Its constitution specifically allows a military to defend the Japanese islands,  but it is forbidden from building a military that can project power outside of its territory.

    The problem is that China is starting to claim parts of the South China Sea that Japan disputes but has no way to stop.   This is where the U.S. is supposed to come in and help Japan,  but instead the U.S. navy has been told by the Obama Administration to maintain a 12 mile distance from those artificial islands China is installing to claim occupancy rights.  Twelve miles is the standard international waters limit from sovereign territory,  so the U.S. has essentially ceded the territory to China without any kind of struggle at all.

    That has to infuriate the Japanese who no doubt feel betrayed by the U.S.’s stance,  but it’s also going to embolden China and perhaps drive them towards even more brazen attempts at territorial expansion.   Therefore,  Japan is left no option but to build up its force projection capabilities.

    This is yet another example of how the U.S’s withdrawal from its previous obligations is making the world a much more dangerous place.

    • #21
  22. ctlaw Coolidge
    ctlaw
    @ctlaw

    Arizona Patriot:I agree entirely with GH (#17). We should welcome Japanese help on the international scene. Japan has proven itself to be a solid ally, and is the most important counter-weight to China.

    To follow up on the demographic issue, here is Japan’s population pyramid as of 2014:

    JA_popgraph 2014

    For military purposes, the critical group is males age 20-29, which totals about 6.5 million. As you can see, the numbers are declining, with annual births of a bit over 1 million (about 500,000 males).

    For comparison purposes, here is the population pyramid for the US in 2014:

    US_popgraph 2014

    Here the critical group is males age 20-29, totaling about 23 million. Overall, US births are about 4 million/year, with just over 2 million males.

    So in the coming couple of decades, the US will have a population edge of about 4:1 over Japan in males of military age. Overall, US population will be about 2.5 times that of Japan.

    Nevertheless, Japan is the most populous and wealthy First World country after the US, and can make a very important contribution.

    For further comparison, the number of annual male births by country are approximately:

    U.S. – 2 million Japan – 500,000 UK – 400,000 France – 400,000 Germany – 350,000 Italy – 275,000

    And essentially all of those births are to actual Japanese, not un-assimilated immigrants.

    • #22
  23. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Dan Hanson: That has to infuriate the Japanese who no doubt feel betrayed by the U.S.’s stance,  but it’s also going to embolden China and perhaps drive them towards even more brazen attempts at territorial expansion.   Therefore,  Japan is left no option but to build up its force projection capabilities.

    Ahhh, I knew there was more to this story.

    Thank you.

    That makes perfect sense.

    This administration is loyal to no one.

    Geesh.

    • #23
  24. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Dan Hanson:This seems to me to be a direct result of the Japanese no longer trusting that the U.S. has their back – especially with regards to China where U.S. policy under the Obama administration has been to essentially cave to every provocation and territorial expansion.

    It may well turn out that it would have been better keeping the Japanese making cars and cameras. We should remember the Japanese have never really come to terms with their WWII-era war crimes.

    But yeah, if I were them (or any other country) I wouldn’t want to rely on the United States either, for anything.

    Likely as not even now they’re just a screwdriver turn away from having a nuclear capability, which if I were living in China’s neighborhood, I’d want to have too.

    • #24
  25. Caleb J. Jones Inactive
    Caleb J. Jones
    @CalebJJones

    Petty Boozswha:Japan should help us by paying for our support, they don’t need to revise their constitution and their samurai heritage. Maybe they could pay to refurbish Subic Bay and the Philippines could let us “rent” it.

    Japan does pay a substantial amount for the stationing of US forces in Japan. In fact, they (we, because I live, work, and pay taxes in Japan) pay for the bases, US personnel housing, and the salaries of the Japanese citizens who work on the bases. The US pays for the military personnel and their equipment.

    • #25
  26. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Umbra Fractus:

    MarciN:What the Democrats either don’t understand or don’t care about is that once the United States abandons the podium as the leader of the free world, it has no control over who will take its place.

    Better Japan than China.

    We didn’t think so towards the end of 1941. Be careful what you wish for.

    • #26
  27. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    aardo vozz:

    Umbra Fractus:

    MarciN:What the Democrats either don’t understand or don’t care about is that once the United States abandons the podium as the leader of the free world, it has no control over who will take its place.

    Better Japan than China.

    We didn’t think so towards the end of 1941. Be careful what you wish for.

    a) That was pre-Mao.

    b) The similarities between 2015 Japan and 1941 Japan are minimal.

    • #27
  28. aardo vozz Member
    aardo vozz
    @aardovozz

    Umbra Fractus:

    aardo vozz:

    Umbra Fractus:

    MarciN:What the Democrats either don’t understand or don’t care about is that once the United States abandons the podium as the leader of the free world, it has no control over who will take its place.

    Better Japan than China.

    We didn’t think so towards the end of 1941. Be careful what you wish for.

    a) That was pre-Mao.

    b) The similarities between 2015 Japan and 1941 Japan are minimal.

    For now.

    • #28
  29. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    Tom, as I mentioned in your conversation from mid-July (http://ricochet.com/meanwhile-japan/), this is a good thing. It’s the legislative follow-on to the approval by the lower house of the Diet. Now that both houses of the Diet have approved the legislation, it’s official Japanese government policy, and will remain so unless revised or overturned by the courts.
    Politically, it was a straight-forward legislative success for Abe and his LDP that the upper house approved it. Although many in the press say he rammed it through, it was supported by politicians from a couple other parties. Had the upper house not approved it, Abe would have had to resort to an alternate means which would have put it on shakier ground.
    While Abe and the LDP have lost some popularity since passage, it was a small loss, and the other parties also lost popularity. It may end up being less of a problem than Abe was expecting.
    While it will help our military by improving interoperability with the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, it will also allow the Self-Defense Forces to formally work with the militaries of other nations. That’s one of the biggest changes, and cannot be understated.

    • #29
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