Japan turns away from post-WWII pacifism

May 22, 2022 1:30 pm

[Source: CNN News]

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is a man on a mission.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, he has imposed sanctions on Moscow, agreed to pursue a nuclear-free world with the Pope and taken a diplomatic tour of Southeast Asia and Europe to rally world leaders to protect democracy.

But it’s not just democracy in Ukraine that he’s trying to protect — Kishida sees parallels between Russia’s actions in Europe and China’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific, a region stretching from America’s Pacific coastline to the Indian Ocean.

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“We strongly oppose any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force, regardless of the location,” said Kishida, in a joint statement with European Union leaders in May. The same statement included a clause expressing “serious concern about reports of militarization, coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea,” though it didn’t name China as the aggressor.

Japan’s location places it in an increasingly volatile security environment — flanked by China to its south, nuclear-armed North Korea to the west and Russia to its north. As a result, the war in Ukraine has catalyzed debates on Japan’s national security like never before.

In April, members of the country’s ruling party submitted a proposal to raise the country’s defence budget from 1% to 2% — in line with NATO members — and develop “counter-attack capabilities” — a move that heralds big changes for Japan’s longstanding pacifist security stance.

But Tokyo is not only investing in its defence, it’s using diplomacy to strengthen its relationships in the region and beyond. Ahead of Kishida’s meeting with United States President Joe Biden on Monday, experts say the world’s third-largest economy is reevaluating its approach to deterrence and showcasing itself as a reliable partner on the world stage.