An acute sense of geopolitical vulnerability in Japan alongside the political dominance of revisionist conservatives has already resulted in notable security policy change in Japan. The likely continuation of both of these dynamics points to the possibility, even inevitability, that more fundamental changes in Japan’s security policy will displace Japan’s claim to a ‘pacifist’ security outlook and its maintenance of an ‘exclusively defensive’ defense posture. Since the 1950s, however, various Western journalists and media figures have constantly speculated whether Japan’s pacifism or antimilitarist idealism was weakening, both at the elite level and within the public, with Japan seemingly always at a turning point where constitutional revision of Article 9, greater defense spending, and even nuclear armament was likely. I argue that a number of misleading narratives hold back the contemporary debate on whether Japan remains a country where preferences for military restraint do influence the trajectory of security policy evolution and the making of grand strategy. Such narratives, and a reified concept of what Japanese pacifism was and is, have prevented better understanding of why recent changes have been tolerated, but also of the relevance of the continuation of preferences for military restraint as seen in the attitudes of the public and in public discourse. Against this background, this presentation looks at the media and scholarly debate on the weakening of Japan’s antimilitarism and proposes a reconfigured understanding of how the ‘peace nation’ concept affected policy in the past, how it changed, and how it continues to influence the present.
11.06.2018 | 14:00 c.t. - 16:00
Room K.18 (basement)
Graduate School of East Asian Studies