In the face of rising Chinese power in Asia, one of China’s oldest and most intense foes appears set to reemerge as a global military powerhouse. Shinzo Abe is looking to bolster Japan’s military in order to “ensure peace” in Asia.
Importantly, Shinzo Abe’s administration is looking to reinterpret the Constitution to allow for expanded military activities outside of Japan’s territory. Traditionally speaking, since the conclusion of Word War II Japan’s military has been used solely for defensive purposes. Now, Japan will be looking to flex its considerable amount of muscle in Asia.
Up until now, Japan has labeled its military solely as a “Self Defense Force.” While the military may continue to operate under the banner of the “Japan Self Defense Force”, the scope of operations for its military will begin to assume a more forward and aggressive stance. This could reshape Asia’s geopolitics.
Unleashing the Dogs of War?
Japan’s military is actually among the strongest in the world. While Japan’s military has traditionally been limited to its own territory, it is a very powerful and advanced force. Lifting the territorial limitations means that a powerful military will now be entering center stage into Asian geopolitics.
If you head over to the Global Firepower Rankings (GFPR), which is a database that accounts for number of military units, you’ll find Japan in the top ten of many listings. And with the Constitutional limits placed on the country’s military being lifted, it should come as no surprise if Japan starts to climb these lists in the near future.
Japan’s military already ranks among the best in the world, and this comes it at number 10 overall. Indeed, Japan’s overall military is given a ranking of ten, Japan’s air force comes in at number 5 with over 1,500 units, and many of these units are among the most advanced aircraft in the world.
Japan’s navy has traditionally been small, likely due to the Constitution’s limits against being able to project power, coming in at only 17th place. Look for that to change as the Japanese look to counter growing Chinese aggressions at sea.
Japan’s Military Among the Most Advanced
China regularly ranks within the top three for most military rankings, however it’s important to distinguish quality and quantity. The GFPR focuses on ranking the number of units, likely due to how difficult of a task it is to rank the quality of said units. Regardless, Japan’s military is among the most advanced in the world, using many advanced American technologies.
While China certainly enjoys a numerical edge, Japan would likely claim a technological one. And now, with Japan lifting the collar it had previously placed around its military, the country’s considerable technological prowess could propel further technological advances.
China Encircling Itself With Aggression
Japan’s increased militarization isn’t coming on a whim. It’s a direct response to growing Chinese power in the region. Japan and China have long been rivals, fighting a number of wars and invading one another over the centuries. Now that China is looking to assert itself as a regional, if not global, power the Japanese are looking to protect their interests and position within Asia.
At the same time, the United States is slowly drawing down its military footprint. While the United States does plan an “Asian Pivot” to counter rising Chinese power, America alone won’t be enough to confront the Chinese. The Americans are still looking to maintain a global presence and that will make it difficult to concentrate enough forces in Asia to counter China.
The Japanese are closely allied with the United States and with their combined forces, present a large threat to the Chinese. At the same time, many South East Asia nations are also growing increasingly frustrated with Chinese belligerence. The possibility of a region wide effort, it not alliance, to contain China could become very real.
Now, it appears that Chinese aggression may be back firing. Instead of allowing the country to expand its influence, it is causing other countries across the region to gravitate towards the United States and one another. China could soon find itself encircled by weary rivals, if not hostile enemies.