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  • Japan's Security Renaissance:To Be Continued
  • Nicholas Szechenyi (bio)

Andrew Oros's book Japan's Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century details advancements in postwar Japanese security policy, identifies variables that have influenced government decision-making in response to changes in the international security environment, and assesses the implications of recent policy initiatives for regional and global security. This informative monograph gives the reader a window into current policy debates and the strategic vision for Japan's future.

Oros focuses in particular on the period from 2006 to 2012, a time when two power transitions helped generate what he describes as "a broad consensus on Japan's appropriate military security policies and practices" (p. 96). The first transition was China's military and economic rise, notably its superseding Japan as the world's second-largest economy. The second was the political transition in Japan from the traditionally dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to the relatively inexperienced Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and then back to the LDP. Analyzing what is aptly dubbed a tumultuous period in Japanese domestic politics, Oros lays out the elements of a more public and practical discussion of Japan's security needs, the cementing of a security "renaissance" that set the stage for a range of policy initiatives under the current government led by Shinzo Abe. This period is bookended by Abe, who first served as prime minister in 2006–7, and Oros presents a comprehensive narrative of the journey "from Abe to Abe" as he calls it, with detailed observations on the era of DPJ rule (2009–12) and the priorities of the second Abe administration (2012–present).

Oros notes that the DPJ introduced important initiatives in security policy—such as a shift in strategic posture from the Cold War–era focus on the Soviet threat to the emerging maritime threat from Chinese coercion in the East China Sea, a commitment to increase the capabilities of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, the relaxation of restrictions on arms exports and joint weapons production, and the strategic use of official development assistance for military-related purposes—that were later developed further during the second Abe administration (pp. 110–23). The book also notes that despite [End Page 182] initial concerns that the DPJ might tweak the LDP's traditional emphasis on the U.S.-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy, the alliance was ultimately strengthened during this period. But the transition to DPJ rule was marked by great uncertainty under the party's first prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, who carelessly promised to relocate a U.S. military facility on Okinawa (Marine Corps Air Station Futenma) outside the prefecture, only to conclude several months later that the existing plan developed by the U.S. and Japanese governments to build a new facility in a less-populated area of Okinawa proved most feasible. Hatoyama's antics created tension with Washington and a perception of drift in the U.S.-Japan alliance, an important source of stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Oros is generous in his summation of Hatoyama's tenure (2009–10), documenting the challenges he posed to the U.S.-Japan alliance but emphasizing his ultimate embrace of the bilateral security relationship. Nevertheless, his review of the DPJ's imprint on Japanese security policy is an important contribution to our understanding of the period.

The book also explains new security policies enacted since 2012 under the second Abe administration. Developments included the creation of a National Security Council housed in the prime minister's office for the purpose of centralizing policy coordination; the adoption of Japan's first formal national security strategy outlining priorities for strengthening Japan's own security, the U.S.-Japan alliance, cooperation with other partners, and Japan's global leadership role; increased defense spending; new guidelines for U.S.-Japan defense cooperation; and legislation reinterpreting the constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense with the militaries of other states in limited circumstances. Abe's security policy reforms generated controversy among lawmakers and the public, but a package of legislation cleared the Diet after considerable debate and compromise, which the...


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pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
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