Stanford scholars examine Japan’s defense reform push

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A Japanese Coast Guard vessel sails in the East China Sea in August 2013.
Photo credit: 
Flickr/chinhdangvu1

The Japanese Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, announced a reinterpretation of the country’s Constitution on July 1st, marking a significant shift in its pacifist security policy that it has held for nearly seventy years.

A controversial aspect of the Constitution’s reinterpretation concerns Article 9, a defense clause that outlaws a traditional military and use of force to settle disputes. The recent announcement, however, suggests lifting Japan’s ban on collective self-defense, extending the country’s ability to apply use of force not only to respond to an armed attack against Japan but also when an armed attack occurs against its allies.

Ryo Sahashi, a visiting associate professor at Shorenstein APARC, writes on the %link1% that it is necessary for Japan to enhance its deterrence through greater diplomacy, not just an enlargement of its military. He says Japan, like other nations, is entitled to secure its territory and pursue its own alliance partners. However, the lack of public support toward the reinterpretation is concerning, and will present challenges as the administration seeks to implement its new policies.

Sahashi also spoke with %link2% about Japan’s changing security paradigm in the context of Mr. Abe’s state visit to Canberra, Australia. He points out that it will take a year for the administration to change the laws associated with the Constitution’s reinterpretation, saying this time gap will allow the Government to shore up national support. His interview is available below, it starts around minute 1:12.

Following the Cabinet’s announcement, a poll conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun reported a 48 percent approval rating of the Abe administration, down nine percentage points when compared to last month. Daniel Sneider, the associate director for research at Shorenstein APARC, says in the %link3% that the poll reflects the public’s lack of support for the policy changes.