Nearly everyone agrees that North Korea’s recent aggressive actions threaten peace and stability in East Asia. But when it comes to the appropriate response, disagreement reigns supreme. For example, in the wake of the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, some of South Korea’s conservative figures have raised concerns that progressive presidential candidates could soften relations with the rogue communist dictatorship.
Likewise, Japan is wrestling with their own response to the North Korean regime. Japan’s questions regarding the nature of their response are considerable, and stem from Japan’s defeat in World War II.
Following their surrender, the war-weary Japanese formally abandoned any and all militarism. In 1947, on the orders of the United States occupational force, the Japanese government approved a new Constitution. This new governing document declared Japan a pacifist nation, and limited its military solely to defensive roles. This means that Japan’s military cannot take offensive action against another military force, even if allies are threatened.
If Kim Jong-un’s provocations ever manifest as real military force, Japan could not help its regional allies directly. This would leave Japan, another of the rogue nation’s greatest enemies, with one hand tied behind its back
Consequently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been reconsidering the restrictions placed on the nation’s military by the 1947 Constitution. Japan’s martial advancement could serve as a powerful signal in the region, which seems increasingly on a razor’s edge. An active Japanese military would ward against not just North Korea, but also China, whose expansionist policies threaten the sovereignty of countries in the region.
Japan has come a long way since its imperialist forces brought the United States into World War II. Given the country’s wholehearted embrace of Western democracy, it seems unlikely that Japan will again succumb to extreme militarism. In fact, its re-militarization could be an invaluable weapon in the fight to restore stability in the East.