HomeExpansionismChina's Embrace: Japan's Battle to Preserve Its Pacifist Identity

China’s Embrace: Japan’s Battle to Preserve Its Pacifist Identity

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Japan’s pacifism hangs in balance as China and North Korea threats loom.

The world has changed significantly since Japan’s transformation into a pacifist nation after World War II, and now new threats from China and North Korea are knocking at Japan’s door, demanding greater protection. This has led to a growing divide within the country over its pacifist ideals.

Japan’s pacifism is rooted in its post-war constitution, particularly Article 9, which renounces war and promises to never maintain military forces. However, the interpretation of this article has evolved over time in response to security challenges. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were created to respond to the Korean War and the Cold War, and in recent years, the country has expanded the role of its military to engage in overseas conflicts for self-defense.

The current security landscape in Asia presents unprecedented challenges to Japan. China’s assertiveness and military buildup, particularly in the South China Sea and against Taiwan, have raised concerns in Japan. There is a fear that if conflict were to break out in Taiwan, Japan would be pulled into a war between the US and China and become a target as an ally. Additionally, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and the potential for a nuclear war pose a perennial existential threat. The growing alliance between Russia and China further adds to the worries.

While calls for militarization have traditionally been championed by a conservative minority, recent polls indicate a shifting public opinion. More Japanese citizens now support a stronger and larger SDF, reflecting a desire for increased defense capabilities. The majority also back Japan’s security alliance with the US and show openness to amending Article 9 to allow for a military.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government has responded to these sentiments by embarking on a significant military spending spree and seeking to expand the armed forces. This marks a departure from Japan’s long-standing aversion to militarization. Under Kishida’s leadership, Japan has invested in fighter jets, refurbished aircraft carriers, and ordered hundreds of Tomahawk missiles. The government plans to allocate a substantial budget of 43 trillion yen ($311 billion) for defense in the coming years, making Japan’s military budget the third-largest in the world.

Ironically, Kishida himself is considered a dovish figure within the ruling Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). His close ties to Hiroshima, where his relatives died in the nuclear attack, and his advocacy for a nuclear-free world have given his government’s push for militarization a more politically acceptable image. The choice of Hiroshima as the venue for the G7 summit underscores Kishida’s emphasis on anti-proliferation strategies.

However, even as Japan pursues a sturdier defense, the idea of building a nuclear arsenal remains a taboo topic. Japan, being the only country to have experienced nuclear bombings, maintains a strict commitment to non-proliferation. Instead, Japan seeks to enhance its defense capabilities through other means, such as acquiring standoff missiles and developing counterstrike capabilities. The aim is to deter potential aggressors and maintain peace in the region.

Japan’s pursuit of a more robust defense has not come without controversy. Critics argue that it crosses red lines and undermines Japan’s post-war principles. Nevertheless, the changing security environment and the need to protect Japan’s interests have compelled the government to take these steps. The challenge lies in striking the right balance between defense and pacifism, without forgetting the painful lessons of history.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-65643346

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/japan-eases-defense-only-strategy-threats-china-north-korea-rcna62056

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