Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy

By Staples, Mark | Naval War College Review, Autumn 1999 | Go to article overview

Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the Postwar Search for Autonomy


Staples, Mark, Naval War College Review


Green, Michael J. Arming Japan: Defense Production, Alliance Politics, and the

Postwar Search for Autonomy. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1995. 205pp. $16.50

The national security of Japan has been of increasing interest lately, and for good reason. Dramatic changes in the security environment of Northeast Asia have shocked the Japanese populace out of its long slumber, forcing Japanese politicians to realize they can no longer ignore issues of security. China's rise as the long-term regional military power, North Korea's missile launch over the Japanese archipelago, and economic stagnation within Japan have all contributed to Japan's current feeling of insecurity for the future. Japan is now grappling with such fundamental military issues as coastal protection for the first time since the end of World War II.

Responding to the situation, Japan's Diet has been debating new laws that would implement the revised Defense Guidelines and define the extent of Japan's assistance to US. forces in the country and the region. Meanwhile, calls from Japanese politicians for the nation to contribute actively to United Nations peacekeeping forces and establish legislative committees to explore revision of the "peace constitution" lead many Tokyo watchers to conclude that Japan is becoming a more "normal nation" in the security realm.

To understand where that journey to normalcy may lead, one must understand how far it has already come. Arming Japan illuminates Japan's postwar security blending of autonomy and dependence on the United States. It also provides rare insight to the future of the US.-Japan security relationship.

This book masterfully describes the history of postwar Japanese efforts to balance defense autonomy by domestic production of defense equipment (kokusanka) and dependence on modern military technology from America. It excels in explaining the political background of this balancing act between various Japanese government agencies, politicians, nationalists, and fiscal realists. Many readers may be surprised that some Japanese politicians and industrialists, especially Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone (1982-89), favored total defense production autonomy from the United States decades ago, because of concerns of American abandonment. Likewise, American concerns that Japan would attempt to use U.S. military technology as a means to break free from the security alliance were misplaced.

Green provides insight into Japanese national security decision making and rightly concludes that determinations on indigenous defense production have never been monolithic. Rather, they have resulted from a hard-fought consen" that never lost sight of the bottom line of Japanese security-maintaining the security alliance with the United States. …

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