In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
With an ever growing globalized world, new threats arise every day. This is something that many in Japan have come to realize. On September 19th, 2015 the Diet of Japan passed a piece of legislation essentially allowing the JSDF to participate in foreign conflicts, with it coming into effect on March 29th, 2016. Commonly known as 安保保安(Anpo hōan) or 'Security Bill', it calls for collective-self defense, or mutual defense among allies. This has allowed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party to pass this legislation without technically violating Article 9 of the Constitution. Essentially it claims to only act in the defense of itself and its allies if under attack from a foreign threat. The unfortunate reality is Japan absolutely needs this legislation in order to deter the aggressive military and territorial expansion of China, be military prepared to deter an attack from North Korea (although that is unlikely, it’s still prudent to have the military prepared for any type of situation), and to protect its citizens residing overseas from international terrorism.
The passing of this legislation has led to much debate among the populace of Japan. Unfortunately, many within Japanese society have grown comfortable under the US security umbrella, and have yet to realize the need to revamp their defense forces. The position on whether to re-militarize is very polarized, with a small majority opposed to changing article 9, but an even split on amending the constitution in general. Many within Japanese society have embraced a sense of deep pacifism and opposition to Japan getting involved in any type of overseas conflict. This is understandable, as they have enjoyed 71 years of peace. However, this peace has been ensured by the US-Japan Security Treaty, under which US forces are obligated to protect Japan under all circumstances, but Japan is not obligated to do the same. It is not a mutual defense treaty, but a one-way defense treaty. Unfortunately, General MacArthur and his advisors were a bit shortsighted when drafting the 1947 Constitution, in not being able to realize that Japan may prove to be an essential ally in ensuring regional stability in Asia.
The common assumption by many Japanese is that because of this new legislation, Japan will be drawn into military conflicts that could jeopardize the peace it has had for so many decades. Another fear is that an escalation of military forces will lead to an inevitable showdown with China. However, the odds of China going to war with both Japan and the United States are practically nonexistent. All three nations are economically dependent on each other, and the prospect of a huge multinational conflict would destroy their national economies, as well as the rest of the world's for a long period of time. Additionally, the theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD) comes into play. Japan, China, and the US all have powerful military capabilities which if used against each other would more than likely result in the deaths of millions and the destruction of the infrastructure of all three nations. The leaders of these nations are aware of this, and it will take not direct conflict, but strategic military posturing to determine who will control the Asia-Pacific region. Japan's military activeness is necessary to ensure that China does not end up controlling the region. Other than the US, numerous nations in the region have been openly supportive and even participate or coordinate military activities with Japan including the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, India, Thailand, Myanmar, and even Vietnam. All these nations are aware the threat that China poses to regional stability, global markets, and free trade.
Japan and the rest of Asia's biggest threat is an increasingly aggressive and militaristic China, whose actions jeopardize the entire Asia-Pacific region. In the past three decades, China's economy has slowly evolved from a third world Communist nation, to a highly developed “semi-market” economy. This has been even more evident in the last decade, with China's economy surpassing that of Japan. With these economic gains, China has developed a new found confidence and sense of nationalism. Its government and people see themselves as the next world power. They also see an opportunity to take back land that once belonged to former Chinese Empires, and to proclaim their status as a powerful nation after two centuries of relative weakness and conquest by foreign empires. China's new nationalism threatens to upset the balance of power that exists in the Asia-Pacific region. China's numerous territorial claims include the Japanese Senakaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands to China), the nation of Taiwan, about half of the Indian state of Aruchanel Pradesh, and the entire South China Sea. Of all China's claims, the claim to the South China Sea is the greatest threat to global stability.
In its claim to the South China Sea, China seeks to have control over the region's large oil reserves and 40% of world trade, which passes through the region every year. Knowing China's style of governance towards its own population, one should be able to conclude that the same style of authoritarian dominance will be implemented over the waterways of East and Southeast Asia, should China get its way. China continues every year to drastically increase its military budget and capabilities, while using those new capabilities to push the boundaries of neighboring countries' national borders and territorial waters. The occupation of the Scarborough Shoal, Paracel Islands, and some of the Spratly Islands by the People's Republic of China (PRC) has led to an intense military standoffs with The Philippines and Vietnam. China ignores international tribunals who have concluded that its claims are invalid, as it continues to occupy and build man-made islands with military grade installations and airstrips. In response, The US has conducted freedom of navigation patrols to protect what is viewed by the rest of the world as international waters. If Japan and other nations were to jointly conduct these patrols with the US, it would send a message to the Chinese that it not only has one nation, but an entire bloc of allied militaries standing against it to protect free trade and territorial integrity. If not, what many fear is that China will slowly swallow up and directly control trade routes in the Asia-Pacific region, severely weakening the economies of its neighboring nations, which would become dependent on China to ensure that imports and exports flows through their borders, thus making them vassals of the PRC. This would also have adverse effects on the rest of the world's global trade, where we can almost be assured that China would impose heavy tariffs on any trade going through “Chinese territory”.
Another major disadvantage that Japan has by not having a fully fledged military is the capability to rapidly deploy special forces overseas to protect its citizens and embassy/consulate personnel. Last year two Japanese citizens, Kenji Goto, a journalist and Haruna Yukawa, a freelance mercenary were both separately captured by ISIS and subsequently beheaded. Japan does not have an equivalent of Navy SEALs or Green Berets which could infiltrate the captors' and rescue their citizens. If a 'Captain Phillips' situation happened to a Japanese cargo ship, the Japanese would most likely call upon the US to rescue their citizens. The US, while obligated to protect Japan, should not be responsible for protecting every overseas Japanese citizen all the time. This is something that the Government and Military of Japan should be responsible for. In a time of ever increasing international Islamic terrorism, the Government of Japan has to be more vigilant than ever to protect its citizens and embassy personnel overseas, especially in such volatile countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.
For these above reasons, Japan absolutely must continue with the normalization of its armed forces. It is essential that Japan be a part of ensuring that China does not gobble up Asia, and it must be able to protect its own citizens overseas from unprecedented situations. Many within Japan, like Prime Minister Abe, are beginning to realize that pursuing an isolationist, pacifist foreign policy is no longer a viable option for Japan. With all due respect for General MacArthur and his valiancy during the Second World War, Article 9 was written without any foresight or considerations that an armed Japan may one day be needed to ensure peace and stability in the region. This normalization will not result in Japan reverting back to an Imperialist conquering nation, as many have ridiculously claimed. This time around, Japan, attempting to be a part of a coalition of nations, would seek to prevent another expansionist nation, China, from doing what Japan did 7 decades ago. Many Japanese will object to the positions taken in this article, but often times hearing the ugly reality about global relations can lead people to realize that peace through strength is often the best solution.