A man prays after releasing a paper lantern on the Motoyasu river facing the Atomic Bomb Dome in remembrance of atomic bomb victims on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, western Japan, August 6, 2015.
Toru Hanai / Reuters

In 2004, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a case for Japan to restore its military capabilities, writing in his book, Determination to Protect This Country, that “if Japanese don’t shed blood, we cannot have an equal relationship with America.” Since then, Abe has sought to revive the country’s defensive capabilities, mostly toward fortifying its claim over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, an island chain in the East China Sea that Beijing says belongs to China. He has requested a record five trillion yen ($42 billion) defense budget for fiscal year 2016 (if approved, it will be Tokyo’s largest in 14 years) and reinterpreted the constitution to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. The efforts have provoked growing alarm.

A June 2015 survey found that 57 percent of South Koreans believe that Japan is in a “militaristic state,” and 58 percent said that Tokyo poses a military threat. In comparison, only 38

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  • FRANZ-STEFAN GADY is a Senior Fellow at the EastWest Institute and Associate Editor at The Diplomat magazine.
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