Analysis

Abe Transforming Japan’s Defense to Counter Chinese Threat
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reviews an honor guard before meeting with high-ranking officers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo on Sept. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
December 20, 2013
| Security
| Asia and the Pacific
Summary
Recent national security reforms by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are small but significant steps to move Japan away from the country’s postwar pacifism so it can play an active role in countering regional security threats. Abe’s moves could not come at a better time given China’s military buildup, its bold efforts to stake claims to huge areas of the East and South China seas, and a perception that American influence in the region is declining.
 
Not surprisingly, these moves attracted considerable criticism inside and outside Japan. China’s Xinhua news agency counseled Japan to “face up to its aggressive history and cooperate with Asian neighbors instead of angering them with rounds of unwise words and policies.” Some in Japan, especially the news media, questioned a new secrecy bill and initiatives to streamline Japanese national security decision-making because they will make the prime minister less accountable to the Japanese legislature and could encroach on civil liberties.
Abe’s recent decision to ramp up Japanese defense spending and buy equipment with more offensive capabilities has attracted the most media attention in the West, although his other two proposals are also significant. One is the creation of a National Security Council similar to that of the United States. The other is passage of the secrecy act. Both proposals are designed to improve the ability of the Japanese government to collect and share intelligence.
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