Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his government passed their security bills on September 20, despite strong opposition and anxiety expressed by the public. The United States should welcome the changes, this is an important step forward for Japan as Washington and Tokyo further deepen their alliance relations. However, it is important for the United States to manage its expectations for Japan, as the role and missions of Japan’s Self Defense Forces (JSDF) will not be fundamentally altered, and Japan’s security policy will remain very much defense-oriented at least for the near future.
The media has portrayed Japan’s recent legislative activity as remilitarization. They are missing the point. Japan is indeed gearing for change, but it is limited in scope, and the anticipated changes are firmly rooted in the U.S.-Japan alliance. Rather than aiming to project Japan’s military power across the Asia-Pacific, the recently passed security legislation is intended to make Japan a more capable ally to the United States. In the revised Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation, Japan committed itself to assisting U.S. operations without geographic constraints in response to situations that threaten Japan’s peace and security. To fulfill this commitment, Abe’s Cabinet proposed the security legislative package that was approved on September 20.
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