Putting Japan’s Constitutional Changes into Perspective
Preventing Conflict through Military Interoperability?
Japan has recently lifted its self-imposed ban on arms imports and exports and reinterpreted its pacifist constitution to allow its armed forces to engage in military operations. This is in line with the Japanese government’s readjustments of its foreign policy over previous decades, in response to various geopolitical conflicts and disputes, particularly with China. Japan’s shift away from a “pure” form of pacifism is unique in modern history. What remains unclear are the future implications of this shift in shaping strategic and military relations in the region. In this article, I argue that Japan’s reinterpretation of texts of its constitution, in tandem with its economic influence, has drawn many countries in the region closer to a mutually beneficial opposition to China’s territorial claims. I also argue that Japan’s shift has sparked the beginning of an informal military coalition and initiated a “safety in numbers” response to China, though this is being held back by unhealed political disputes. Additionally, I examine some implications for the emerging military relationships in the Asia Pacific, particularly with regards to unrestricted access to the South China Sea.