Japan has always been a nation with a rich culture and history. Unfortunately, Japan began taking an imperial stance after 1854, when the Japanese forcibly opened their nation to foreign trade at the hands of US Commodore Matthew Perry. Once Japan realized the advancement of weaponry used by Americans and other Westerners, the small island nation began a massive industrial evolution that would bring Japan on a level playing field with the rest of the developed world.
As Japan continued to modernize, they began to see their strength grow and their grudges hold true and this led to the successful formation of Imperial Japan. Once Japan grew in strength and industrial capabilities, the country began to launch attacks in its region.
Easily the most infamous attack, pre (European) WWII by Imperial Japan would have to be the “Rape of Nanking”. However, Japan came back into the American spotlight with the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the next four years following Pearl Harbor, the US and Japan would engage in a bloody and hard fought war campaign on the Pacific front. It was not until the US dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan and Russia invaded Manchuria, effectively ending World War 2, that the Imperial power was stopped.
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For the rest of the 1940s and into the 1950s, the US helped rebuild and reshape Japan into a defensive-minded nation. The American inspired Japanese Constitution prevents the Japanese from using war to solve international problems and puts very strict quotas on Japan’s standing army size, military investment, military deployments, etc. Now after 70 years of restrictions, Japanese officials have put into place more authority and power over its military, as threats continue to present themselves to Japan.
US supports a more lively Japanese military as South China Sea conflicts remain
For 70 years, the US really had no reason to support Japan’s military reemergence out of its post-WWII restrictions. The post-WWII Constitution gave Japan the ability to defend itself, but prevented offensive campaigns to prevent another reboot of Imperial Japan. However, as times passes, new problems arise and circumstances change. The US and China have been locked in a war of words for quite some time now over China’s claim of the South China Sea.
Aside from claims that the South China Sea is Chinese territory, the nation is building artificial islands in the regions, presumably for military bases and the ability to deploy troops within the region much quicker. The US has been very vocal against China’s position in the region and has called upon other Asian nations to reject China’s actions. However, there really is no other nation that has the ability to stand in with China, other than the possibility to Japan.
However, the military restrictions severely hamper Japan’s ability to protect its sovereignty and interests within the region and the South China Sea. Japan and China certainly have been in a war of words over China’s actions in the region, but at the end of the day Japan’s options are limited. A major reason why the US supports the watering down of Japanese military restrictions is so that they can start to exert their influence in the region more and counter China’s actions.
Japanese citizens come out in droves to protest government’s ruling
While there are some that are certainly championing the new Japanese order, Japanese citizens are not very fond of the idea. The main issue that some Japanese citizens have with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s move is that it violates the written, post-WWII Constitution the country adopted. Additionally, Japanese citizens fear that this could be an excuse for Japan to get caught up in unnecessary and expensive wars overseas.
All the while, public opinion in Japan of their government hovers around 40%. Prime Minister Abe and supporters of the loosening of restrictions cite a changing international landscape with China exerting its presence in the region and the fact that two Japanese citizens were publically executed by the Islamic State recently. Supporters maintain that new challenges to Japan’s safety and sovereignty have exerted themselves and that the military provision in the Constitution prevents Japan from rightfully defending itself from these threats.
Overall, Japan is experiencing a bit of a reemergence. After 70 years of the fall of Imperial Japan, the island nation once again nears the ability to govern a military as a “normal country”. Numerous threats are once again rising as they did centuries ago when Commodore Perry sailed into the Japanese harbor.
Now, we wait to see if history repeats itself with Japan hoping to influence the Asian region and the ability to defend itself against Islamic State terror and acts of aggression by its neighbors. Overall, Japan certainly has shown a change of attitude from its imperial days and now Japan wishes to once again actively divert threats before they knock on Japan’s home front.