Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force tanks take part in an annual training session with Mount Fuji in the background at Higashifuji training field in Gotemba. Photo: Reuters/Issei Kato

A cheering crowd watching live fire drills of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, held in the foothills of Mount Fuji over the weekend, highlighted the growing public support in the country for a stronger military.

The New York Times reports that applications for tickets were oversubscribed by a factor of six to one this year. The share of Japanese interested in the SDF has risen to 71% in 2015, from just 55% in the 1980s, according to government polls.

One attendee at the drills, 74 year-old Ichiro Miyazoe, summed up his concerns: “we have been living in peace for such a long time that we believe this peace is going to last forever. Japan has had a weak attitude, like a losing dog. We must have a stronger military.”

North Korea’s missile launch over Japan can only serve to boost the changing sentiment, which has come along with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to move to a more assertive self-defense policy:

But over time, the government has nudged the definition of self-defense into a more assertive posture. Recently, it has quietly discussed the possibility of acquiring cruise missiles allowing it to pre-emptively strike a missile launch site if it detected signs of an imminent attack.

Some analysts say Japan’s notion of pacifism has always contained contradictions.

“It is faux pacifism, and it always has been,” said Grant Newsham, a retired United States Marine colonel and a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies. “It is predicated on the perspective that Japan faces no threats

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