Bayonets belonging to the Japanese Self-Defense Force are seen in front of Japan's rising sun flag, which is used by the forces, October 2013.
Issei Kato / Courtesy Reuters

Last month, as the world focused on China’s declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone over the East China Sea and its unveiling of political and military reforms after its Third Plenum, Japan was busy, too. In mid-December, Tokyo released a host of defense and security reforms aimed at reconfiguring Japan’s security posture, including new National Defense Program Guidelines (NPDG), the establishment of a new U.S.-style national security council, and further progress toward reinterpreting the role of its military, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). With these reforms, Japan has created its first-ever national security strategy, for a time when Japan is “confronted by complex and grave national security challenges.”   

The specifics of the new national security strategy should not be surprising to those familiar with the region. Nevertheless, the document received bristling reviews. China’s defense ministry quickly released a statement decrying Japan’s attempts to “create

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