On the eve of the 80th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Japan’s new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, vowed to strengthen the country’s military and explore the option of giving Japan the ability to launch attacks on military bases in other countries.
Under Japan’s post-World War II constitution, Tokyo is only allowed to take military action in self-defense. “In order to safeguard the people’s lives and livelihoods, we will examine all the options, including the capability to attack enemy bases … and fundamentally strengthen our defense posture with a sense of speed,” Kishida said in a speech to Japan’s parliament on Monday.
In order to allow the military to conduct strikes on other countries, Kishida would need to revise Japan’s constitution. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who left office at the end of 2020, began laying the groundwork for such a move and the possible development of missiles that could reach North Korea and China.
While Japan’s military is only technically for self-defense, it is one of the largest in the world, and it is looking to expand. With the US focusing on countering China in the region, Washington is encouraging Japan to strengthen its forces and increase military cooperation with other countries.
Along with the US, Australia, and India, Japan is a member of the Quad, an informal group that is seen as a potential foundation for a NATO-style alliance in Asia. As part of his anti-China strategy, President Biden is looking to boost cooperation between the Quad members.
Japan is engaged in a maritime dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The Senkakus are Japanese controlled but are also claimed by China and Taiwan. Chinese coast guard vessels have recently sailed near the islands, drawing protest from Tokyo. The US has responded by warning China that the Senkakus are covered by the mutual defense clause of the US-Japan Security Treaty.