In early December 2021, Japan’s Self-Defense Forces joined US armed forces for Resolute Dragon 2021, which the US Marine Corps called the “largest bilateral training exercise of the year.”
Major-General Jay Bargeron of the US 3rd Marine Division said at the start of the exercise that the United States was “ready to fight and win if called upon.”
In October this year, Resolute Dragon 2022 followed the resumption in September of trilateral military drills by Japan, South Korea and the United States off the Korean Peninsula; these drills had been suspended as the former South Korean government attempted a policy of rapprochement with North Korea.
These military maneuvers take place in the context of heightened tension between the United States and China, with the most recent US National Security Strategy identifying China as the “only competitor” of the United States in the world and therefore in need of being constrained by the United States and its allies (which, in the region, are Japan and South Korea).
This US posture comes despite repeated denials by China – including by Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on November 1 – that it will “never seek hegemony or engage in expansionism.” These military exercises, therefore, place Japan center-stage in the New Cold War being prosecuted by the United States against China.
The Constitution of Japan of 1947 forbade the country from building up an aggressive military force. Two years after Article 9 was inserted into the constitution at the urging of the US occupation force, the Chinese Revolution succeeded and the United States began to reassess the disarmament of Japan.
Discussions about the revocation of Article 9 began at the start of the Korean War in 1950, with the US government putting pressure on Japanese prime minister Shigeru Yoshida to build up the army and militarize the National Police Reserve; in fact, the Ashida Amendment to Article 9 weakened Japan’s commitment to demilitarization and left open the door to full-scale rearmament.
Public opinion in Japan is against the formal removal of Article 9. Nonetheless, Japan has continued to build up its military capacity. In the 2021 budget, Japan added the equivalent of US$7 billion (7.3%) to spend $54.1 billion on its military, “the highest annual increase since 1972,” notes the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
In September, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said his country would “radically strengthen the defense capabilities we need…. To protect Japan, it’s important for us to have not only hardware such as aircrafts and ships, but also enough ammunition for them.” Japan has indicated that it will increase its military budget by 11% a year from now until 2024.
In December, Japan will release a new National Security Strategy, the first since 2014. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the Financial Times, “We will be fully prepared to respond to any possible scenario in east Asia to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people.”
It appears that Japan is rushing into a conflict with China, its largest trading partner.
This article was produced by Globetrotter, which provided it to Asia Times.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of US Power.