Japanese Military Strength & Effect on Other Nations

Japanese Military Strength & Effect on Other Nations

Conflict & Cooperation Analysis

The end of World War II brought a dramatic change to United States policies regarding nations and their sovereign rights to bear arms and establish standing military forces. After the defeat of Germany and Japan the United States emerged from WWII as the world’s strongest military force. As the new military leader in the world, the US began setting into motion policies for dealing with antagonistic countries which has lasted even today. The policy of democratization was instituted in Japan which led to the construction of the Japanese Constitution. Under article 9 of this constitution Japan would renounce war.

“The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes”, and also, “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” (Article 9)

This policy and constitutional structure would make Japanese military mainly defensive in nature. This was to ensure that democracy would take hold and imperialism and military rule would not surface again in Japanese society (Dolan and Worden, 1992). Today this constitutional directive is an active feature in the Japanese society. The majority of Japanese people do not believe in the proliferation of military strength especially that of nuclear capability.

Military Force Structure

As a result of the new Japanese government policies towards war, the Japanese military would become a defensive structure relying on US protection. After World War II rising tensions with China, Korea, and Russia would push the Japanese to establish Self Defense Forces (SDF) (Dolan and Worden, 1992). The SDF would have limited capability and would have the purpose of defense only measures. While some argue that the Japanese have a standing military that is strong it has never operated independently of US or United Nations initiatives.

Currently the SDF is divided into AIR, Ground, and Maritime divisions. These divisions are relatively small in nature acting as extensions of the police forces in Japan. For example, the SDF Ground division consists of approximately 180,000 personnel. This force maintains less than 1200 tanks less than 200 helicopters and 1000 artillery units. The SDF Air similarly maintains a force of less than 500 fighter planes. As well, the SDF Maritime fleet consists of 47 destroyers, 16 submarines, and mostly training ships. There are no aircraft carriers in the fleet. Comparatively speaking the Japanese military pales in comparison to forces such as the United States which has close to 1.5 million active personnel (Global Firepower, 2011).

What the Japanese military lacks in size it does however makeup for in technology and in its strategic alliance with the United States. The United States maintains military bases throughout Japan which work in conjunction with the SDF. As well, the Japanese are world leaders in creating technology which powers military weapons systems. Many of the antiballistic missile systems which the US and the United Nations relies upon are built by the Japanese (Global Security, 2011).

Military Spending

The Japanese Defense Budget was approximately $51.81 billion in 2010 and is planned to increase in 2011 to $281.98 billion (Global Firepower, 2011). The reason for increased spending has come about due to terrorism and increased threats from countries like North Korea and China. Most of the increased spending will be used to build and purchase new weapons systems.

Chain Of Command

The Prime Minister is the Commander-in-Chief of the Self Defense Forces. The military authority runs from the Prime Minister to the Minister of Defense and to the Chief of Staff. A 4-star General or Admiral is the highest ranking military officer in the Japan Self Defense Forces and maintains full operational authority over the SDF. Because of fears of military control, the Japanese people favor civilian control through a prime minister. This is to ensure that a repetition of an imperialist government does not repeat itself in the country (Global Security, 2011).

Because the Japanese military is strongly controlled by civilian authority the government has worked hard to maintain strong ties with the Japanese people. The military often functions as disaster relief such as in the case of the recent earthquake. Tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters are always met with relief and aid from the SDF. For example, in the recent earthquake in Japan which caused the reactor overload, the SDF used helicopters to dowse the reactor core with seawater to cool the rods (CBS, 2011)

As a member of the United Nations, Japan participates in peacekeeping mission and primarily for humanitarian efforts. The Japanese constitution forbids Japan as a acting as a military force and on these missions the SDF operates mostly in noncombatant roles. For instance, in Iraq SDF was deployed to assist with reconstruction efforts, however, this action was controversial in that SDF was there as part of a larger military occupation. Japan has also participated in guarding waterways near Somalia from pirates and has assisted in Humanitarian efforts in Haiti and in Mozambique.

Japan’s military has been criticized for its actions during peacekeeping missions. The democratic system in place in Japan does not allow for a military presence. Japans role in Iraq drew the ire of the United Nations and other world powers. Often the Japanese military is caught in controversy because of its involvement in the United States military. Although Japan maintains a very small military its technology is incorporated and is vital to American military strength. The Japanese provide the US with large amounts of parts needed for missile systems and for guidance systems for smart bombs and nuclear missile systems. There are many countries that see Japan as nothing more than an extension of US military power.

While Japan’s national policy abhors nuclear proliferation, it does not seem to have a problem with building parts for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). As the only country to ever experience nuclear attack and its aftermath, Japan shuns nuclear weaponry at the public level. In 2009 less than 20% of the Japanese population thought that Japan should maintain nuclear weapons (Yokota, 2009). There is however a growing fear in Japan regarding North Korea and China’s proliferation of WMD. The recent rise in threat levels has spawned two types of anti-ballistic missile systems, the sea-based Aegis and land-based PAC-3. Both are defensive programs designed to repel a nuclear attack.

Japan’s military while small does serve a strong purpose in the United Nations and provides peacekeeping and humanitarian aid. These efforts serve to bolster other military forces in the United Nations and help to maintain peace in hot zones throughout the world. As the war on terrorism seems to continue to escalate Japan finds itself a target relying strongly on US and United Nations protection. Japan will continue to increase its military strength for defensive purposes as long as the threat of terrorism continues to be pervasive.


Article 9 of the Constitution and the reality of the SDF Retrieved from http://www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~katsuaki/sesou64.html

CBS News Japan: Reactor “relatively stable” after hosing March 19, 2011 Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/19/501364/main20045000.shtml

Dolan, R. and Worden R. (1992). Japan : A Country Study. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. ISBN 0–8444–0731–3. section 2: “The Self Defense Forces”

Fackler, Martin (December 16, 2010). “Japan Announces Defense Policy to Counter China”. The New York Times. Retrieved December 17, 2010.

Global Fire Power (2011) Japan Military Strength Retrieved from http://www.globalfirepower.com/country-military-strength-detail.asp?country_id=Japan

Global Security (2011) Japan http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/index.html

Takashi Yokota (2009) The N Word Why Japan won’t go nuclear. http://www.newsweek.com/2009/06/12/the-n-word.html

Photo by David Edelstein on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Sun, Mar 14, 2021. Japanese Military Strength & Effect on Other Nations Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/japanese-military-strength-effect-on-other-nations

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