Japan was once a great power with one of the world’s most feared militaries pre-WWII. After its unconditional surrender to the United States, the country’s imperial constitution was rewritten by Washington, and Tokyo spent decades of demilitarization with a military regulated to a self-defense force.

Despite decades of peace, prosperity, and economic growth, Japan has gained looming threats as its adversaries saw their nation’s demilitarization as a sign of weakness. Tokyo has now realized Washington can no longer be the only guarantor of its safety and has moved towards rebuilding their military in the face of three emerging threats.

Self-Defense Force


Japan’s Decades of Demilitarization and Policies Towards Remilitarization

Post World War Two, Japan was militarily occupied by the United States for three decades, as stated in their unconditional surrender. Japan currently holds the largest contingent of US overseas forces, with 39000 spread nationwide.

Despite geopolitical threats from North Korea and the Chinese Communist Party, Tokyo had never truly worried about these national security threats. US Forces were a competent central to deterrence until the 90s.

After the US normalized relations with China, the latter slowly grew its economy and military capabilities, with rapid growth and development in the 90s and early 2000s. North Korea would develop its own nuclear weapons program, with unilateral missile tests that have been internationally condemned.

These various national security issues brought Japanese parliament members towards discussions of remilitarization, with the former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, highlighting a need for a capable military.