Over the past fifteen years, a quiet strategic shift has occurred in Japan. During the cold war era, Japan’s defense was oriented towards the Soviet threat north of Hokkaido. However, under the very real threat of North Korean aggression, the less tangible threat of terrorism, and the perceived need to participate more fully in international peacekeeping activities, Japan has changed the characteristics of its armed forces. Additionally, an increasingly self-confident China is testing Japan’s resolve in the waters surrounding Japan, simultaneously speaking of cooperative development while laying claim to a swathe of Japanese territory and waters. An apparently ambivalent United States, in relative decline, watches these proceedings. Japan has reoriented its defense posture to face south, towards the East China Sea, trying to shape Chinese behavior and hedge against future Chinese adventurism. However, with a tangible recommitment of American attention to East Asia and a firm, public, American stand on behalf of Japan’s territorial integrity, future conflict can be deterred.
The opinions expressed in this paper are the personal thoughts of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Marine Corps or the United States Government.