Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has begun to transform Japan into a normal country. Tokyo plans to take a more active role internationally. Eventually it should take over responsibility for defending itself.
As military occupier after World War II, the United States imposed Article Nine of the Japanese constitution, disarming Tokyo. But in recent years, Washington has pushed Japan to do more militarily.
So far, Tokyo simply has revised its interpretation of Article Nine. Japan’s “Self Defense Force” will be allowed to cooperate with other countries in combat.
Overseas the response was mixed. Naturally, the United States was pleased. China was unhappy. Other nations, such as Australia, were supportive.
Some critics still worry about Tokyo’s ultimate intentions, as if the Japanese had a double dose of original sin. But Japan, with a stagnant economy, middling (and declining) population, and pacifist ethos, doesn’t look much like the next global dominatrix.
Instead, Japan’s well-established desire to do nothing has run aground because the world looks ever more dangerous. Moreover, basic economics suggests that Washington will have to reduce its role. As Prime Minister Abe recognized in 2012: “With the U.S. defense budget facing big cuts, a collapse of the military balance of power in Asia could create instability.”