Mon, Oct 26, 2015 - Page 9 News List

Japan needs to rearm to bolster regional stability and boost GDP

By Brahma Chellaney

Another survey last year revealed that only 15.3 percent of Japanese — the lowest proportion in the world — were willing to defend their country, compared to 75 percent of Chinese.

However, the reality is that ensuring long-term peace in Asia demands a stronger defense posture for Japan. Indeed, reforms that enable Japan to defend itself better, including by building mutually beneficial regional partnerships, would enhance its capacity to forestall the emergence of a destabilizing power imbalance in East Asia.

It is now up to Japan’s government to win over its own citizens, by highlighting the difference between pacifism and passivity. Japan would not encourage or support aggression; it would simply take a more proactive role in securing peace at the regional and global levels.

A more confident and secure Japan would certainly serve the interests of the US, which could then depend on its close ally to take more responsibility for both its own security and regional peace.

Americans increasingly seem to recognize this, with 47 percent of respondents in the Pew survey supporting a more active role for Japan in Asian security.

There remain questions about precisely how self-sufficient Japan would have to be to carry out this “proactive pacifism” — a term popularized by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — consistently and effectively. Would Japan need to become a truly independent military power, with formidable deterrent capabilities like those of the UK or France?

The short answer is yes. While Japan should not abandon its security treaty with the US, it can and should rearm, with an exclusive focus on defense.

Of course, unlike the UK and France, Japan does not have the option to possess nuclear weapons, but it can build robust conventional capabilities, including information systems to cope with the risk of cyber warfare.

Beyond bolstering Japanese security and regional stability, such an effort would likely boost Japan’s GDP and yield major profits for US defense firms.

As a “status quo” power, Japan does not need to match Chinese military might. Defense is, after all, easier than offense. Still, the rise of a militarily independent Japan would constitute a game-changing — and highly beneficial — development for Asia and the rest of the world.

Brahma Chellaney is a professor of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research and a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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