Putting Japan’s Constitutional Changes into Perspective

Preventing Conflict through Military Interoperability?

  • Tegg Westbrook University of Stavanger
Keywords: Japan, China, ASEAN, defense, technology, interoperability, Japanese Constitution, South China Sea


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.

Author Biography

Tegg Westbrook, University of Stavanger

Tegg Westbrook is Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Economics, Risk Management and Planning, at the University of Stavanger, Norway. His most recent publications have appeared in Action on Armed Violence, Sur – International Journal on Human Rights, and The Parsons Journal for Information Mapping. His research interests include: security industries, defence products, national and intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, Japanese military technologies, counter-terrorist mitigation measures in urban landscapes, Human Geography and International Relations. He is currently exploring the growing nexus between public / private collaborations among security experts, architects and civil engineers in urban design.

How to Cite
Westbrook, T. (2018). Putting Japan’s Constitutional Changes into Perspective. Japan Studies Association Journal, 15(1), 83-106. Retrieved from https://ojs.phoebusmediagroup.com/index.php/jsaj/article/view/49
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