Japan’s post-war constitution, known as the “Peace Constitution,” rejects the use of force to resolve international disputes and limits the nation’s military to defensive actions. Over the years, however, the definition of what constitutes as “self-defense” has evolved as a matter of policy. While Japan’s government maintains that it reserves the right to collective self-defense, which is the use of force in response to an armed attack on another nation, a 1960 Cabinet Office decision bars the country’s defense forces from participating in any military action that is not in response to an attack on Japan.
Since returning to power in late 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party have promoted more assertive defense policies for Japan, including exercising the right of collective self-defense. The United States has long encouraged Japan to take a greater role in the shared security commitments of the alliance. The recent joint statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee welcomed Japanese efforts in this regard and indicated a desire to collaborate closely.
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