After a passionate, and at times contentious debate, Japan’s parliament, the Diet, has passed a law expanding the role of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces abroad. The law allows Japanese troops to fight overseas for the first time since the end of World War II. The change is dramatic for a nation with a constitution based on the premise of pacifism.
The Self-Defense Forces will be permitted to provide limited defense capabilities for allies in conflicts outside of Japanese territory. An example would be intercepting a missile launched from North Korea that is bound for US territory in the Pacific, or for the US mainland. North Korea does not have the ability to hit CONUS right now, however, some of the missiles in their inventory can reach US bases on Guam. Another situation could be providing logistical support for US forces in Korea in the event of a Second Korean War. Japan would be unable to commit troops to a conflict in Korea, its constitution still prohibits that.
The national debate on expanding Japan’s military is bringing large numbers of students out to opposition demonstrations. Student protests are not common in Japan. Unlike their counterparts in South Korea, most Japanese students have remained detached from politics. This issue is so big, though, it is drawing in people from every facet of Japanese society. One fear the opposition has is that the new law will draw Japanese forces into US led wars in other areas of the world. This was not the point of crafting the bill.
Supporters of the change argue that the era of a hands-off, isolationist Japan is over and the role of the Self-Defense Forces has to be modified. The rise of China’s military power and its assertive attitude in the Asia-Pacific region are two primary reasons for concern. The US is firmly behind Japan’s new role. It adds a new dimension of cooperation to the US-Japan military relationship and serves as an reminder that US concerns about China’s recent actions and behavior are not unilateral. The Obama administration has struggled to put together a cohesive response in Asia. Japan’s move will help bring one about.
Tomorrow, Part Two of the Week in Review will cover new happenings in the European humanitarian crisis as well as Syria. I hope everyone is enjoying the weekend.