Myths and Realities of Japan’s Security Policy | Wilson Center
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Myths and Realities of Japan’s Security Policy

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Webcast Recap

Is Japan moving away from pacifism toward militarism in light of changing realities facing East Asia? Can the U.S.-Japan alliance continue to meet the region’s security needs? Should Japan play a greater role for international security if it revises its constitution? Join us for a discussion on these issues as the Wilson Center’s Global Fellow Narushige Michishita attempts to demystify Japan’s security policy.

Selected Quotes

Narushige Michishita, Global Fellow, Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo; Former Japan Scholar

“Overall, Japan’s security policy is quite reasonable, I think. But it is true that there is a gap between its rhetoric and the reality, and that gap makes it difficult for people to understand Japan’s security policy accurately.”

“Myth: Japan’s self-defense force is not a military force… Reality: The Japan Self-Defense Force is a full-fledged military force—one of the most capable in the world.”

“The fact is that Japan is opposed to the use of its own forces in the settlement of international disputes. In most cases, Japan has supported the use of force by the United States. Pacifists don’t support any use of force; Japan supports the use of force that it considers to be legitimate … If you are not pacifist, you can’t move away from pacifism, right? So, what is Japan doing? Japan is moving away from isolationism toward internationalism.”

“Bad news, South Korea failed to renew the important agreement. Good news, we can do so and get away with it. Why? Because as I said, there are two alliances, not only the U.S.-South Korea Alliance but also the U.S.-Japan Alliance there. They are highly institutionalized, and they are there to defend South Korea, and we have passed a new law where Japan is much more committed to the defense of South Korea. Even without GSOMIA, all the system mechanism is there so, in a way, South Korea might be playing the game, but it can play this game because it has become confident of the credibility of the deterrence that these defense mechanisms backed by two alliances generated, so good news, bad news.”

“Certainly, Japanese people, including the people in the government, feel very negatively about nuclear weapons, but at the same time they understand that, in order to secure their own countries they are responsible—the Japanese government officials or security specialists—they are responsible for securing Japan. So, they have to realistically think about the necessity of nuclear weapons … Because of our experience, we can demonstrate and show to the people in the world how devastating nuclear weapon use can be, and that we can kind of educate and enlighten those people who might not know the disastrous consequences of nuclear war.”

Image: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force

09-26-2019 Myths and Realities of Japan's Security Policy




  • Narushige Michishita

    Global Fellow
    Professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo; Former Japan Scholar