Revising Japan's Article 9: Yes, but not now

The price for 'normalising' Japan's military posture is too steep, especially for something that is largely of symbolic value.

A member of Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force taking part in an annual new year military exercise in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, in January. Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe wants to insert an explicit reference to the Self-Defence Forces in Article 9 of th
A member of Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force taking part in an annual new year military exercise in Funabashi, east of Tokyo, in January. Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe wants to insert an explicit reference to the Self-Defence Forces in Article 9 of the Constitution. But he will pay a political price if he pushes through with the revision, which will also not go down well with China and South Korea. PHOTO: REUTERS
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To say that Japan lives in a tough neighbourhood would be an understatement. North-east Asia hosts five of the world's biggest military spenders - China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. Across the Sea of Japan, North Korea has made massive strides towards a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile capability that can hit the continental United States.

China's military is an existential worry to Japanese policymakers.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2018, with the headline Revising Japan's Article 9: Yes, but not now. Subscribe