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Decoding Japan’s Security Discourse: Diverse Perspectives

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  • March 02, 2016

    Research Assistant, IDSA, Dr Titli Basu’s article on Japan’s Security Discourse, titled ‘Decoding Japan’s Security Discourse: Diverse Perspectives’, was published in the January-March, 2016, edition of India Quarterly.


    East Asian theatre is fast evolving. China’s arrival as a major power in international politics is altering the existing regional balance of power and intensifying Japan’s quest for securing a rightful place in the international system. Japan is reacting to the asymmetrical power politics and Shinzo Abe is increasingly becoming restless in attempting to redefine Japan’s secondary power identity. This requires undoing the limitations that were forced on Japan in the post-war period, including the constitutional restrictions, especially the pacifist clause. Amid fiercely contested domestic debate, reinterpreting the pacifist constitution is certainly a bold step towards infusing clarity in Japan’s future security role. The key objective is to convey to Japan’s allies concerning the manner the SDF will cooperate with the US and other regional powers, such as Australia, India, Philippines, etc. How this ‘limited’ right to collective self-defence will translate into operation will remain to be seen. To understand the rapidly unfolding policy shift, it is imperative to understand the different waves of the debate on collective self-defence and deconstruct the recent cabinet decision; explore the arguments of the competing schools of thought in Japan; examine the nuances and drivers that propelled Japan to redefine its passive constitution; and understand how regional and extra-regional powers evaluate this policy reorientation. Few regional stakeholders raised an alarm over the approach adopted by Abe to achieve the policy objective underscoring his militarist ambitions. While the aggressive historical baggage has caused considerable unease, it is premature to be alarmed over Japan’s shifting security posture as possible re-militarisation is unlikely to represent the traits of Imperial Japan.

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