More than two years after he unexpectedly left the prime ministership of Japan, and six months after his assassination, it is clear that Mr Shinzo Abe’s legacy on strategic issues is being continued apace. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent visit to the United States for a summit with President Joe Biden has cemented further the Japan-US alliance, even as each partner builds up its own military strength. What is more, after decades of a “sword and shield” policy where Japan was the shield and US the sword against adversary nations in the Indo-Pacific, Washington is committed to building up Tokyo’s counterstrike capabilities.
Mr Kishida’s trip to Washington was his first since his election in October 2021, and came a month after his government announced plans to significantly increase military spending in the face of China’s assertiveness and provocative missile tests by North Korea. Some of the missiles that China lobbed around Taiwan last August landed in Japanese waters. Washington has reassured Tokyo that the US-Japan defence treaty covers the Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu. The United States will also sell Japan US-made Tomahawk missiles, hitherto made available only to Britain.