In This Review

Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power
Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power
By Sheila A. Smith
Harvard University Press, 2019, 352 pp

Washington’s relationship with Tokyo is generally considered the most important of the United States’ 70-odd alliances. In this intimately knowledgeable book, Smith shows how that alliance looks to the Japanese: increasingly unreliable. Japan has done much to keep the United States committed to its defense: raising its defense budget, upgrading equipment and training, and deploying troops overseas as part of un missions and U.S.-led coalitions. It has also strengthened its forces’ independent ability to fend off air and maritime probes from China and Russia and potential missile attacks from North Korea. But as threats from all three neighbors intensify, the Japanese are less and less sure that the United States will defend them in a crisis. Some Japanese policymakers now argue that the country must develop a self-reliant defense, to be used if and when U.S. credibility deflates completely. Given Japan’s geography, however, the only effective defense would be deterrence, which would breach the ban on offensive capabilities contained in the country’s “peace constitution.” The Japanese public is not yet willing to make that leap, but opinion is shifting.