The US and Western public opinion has paid increasing attention to Japan's recent moves on defense. More and more analysts believe that Japan seems to have been completing the largest "military" transformation in recent decades. Some American media asked, "Is Japan's military strong enough to subvert the military pattern in the Asia-Pacific?" And some even reported that Japan is turning away from its post-WWII "pacifism." Regardless of the true intent of these reports, they have indeed raised an important issue that deserves the vigilance of regional countries.
Over the past few decades, Japan has generally given the international community the impression of being "low-key" and "restrained" in the field of defense, but this does not mean the country is a "Hello Kitty." According to some American media outlets, Japan's well-trained and well-equipped Self-Defense Forces are now among the most powerful armed forces in the world. The Global Firepower Index (GPI) ranked Japan fifth globally in overall military power. In the global military strength rankings published by Japanese media, Japan ranked fourth in the world.
The outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has triggered the "remilitarization" ambition of the Japanese right-wing forces. On Sunday, leaders of Japan's ruling and opposition parties including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida discussed on TV whether Japan should consider acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine. Not long ago, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party proposed to increase the proportion of GDP for defense spending from 1 percent to 2 percent within five years. Japan has been propagating and emphasizing its "unease." This, in turn, also makes Japan's neighboring countries feel puzzled and uneasy. Japan, which has gradually shifted its national focus from economic development to military expansion, is becoming the biggest hidden danger to peace and stability in East Asia.
In the process, Washington's indulgence has offered the Japanese right-wing politicians unrealistic fantasies. In the face of Japan's move to seek a fundamental change in defense, Kurt Campbell, the White House's Indo-Pacific policy coordinator, did not express any concern. He described Japan as a "responsible country," and said that "memories of a distant period do not animate modern concerns." What people see from this is that Washington is leaning over to untie the ropes that it once bundled up on Japanese militarism. The utilitarian mentality of using Japan to build a containment circle against China has overwhelmed deserved US concerns on regional risks and consequences.
Given the overall operations conducted by Washington, the real dangers of Japanese right-wing forces are obscured. Japan is the only country in the world that dares to openly deny the history of its aggression in World War II, but the US has kept endorsing Japan's ambitions out of its own geopolitical self-interests. It hopes that Japan could keep the ability to bark at China frequently, even bite when necessary, while it takes Japan under its own control confidently. In other words, the US does not care if Japan is smashed to pieces in the geopolitical collision, while Japan wants to use the US' selfishness to achieve its purpose of completely unleashing its military and political restrictions, which has become a dangerous scheme of theirs.
Currently, the entire Japanese political arena tends to be not clear-headed. There are voices in almost every political party advocating the need to increase Japan's defense capabilities, as well as "striking bases in enemy territory." This scenario has never appeared since the end of World War II. Although the overall ideological trend of Japanese society has changed a lot compared with the one before World War II, and the soil for reviving militarism is not sufficient, it can't be ignored that the possibility of using a crisis to provoke those extreme advocates to break through the social constraints. In particular, Washington is putting out the fire for Japan's "remilitarization" that threatens the world's public opinion, while at the same time giving Japan the initiative to stand at the forefront of US geopolitical competition.
Regardless of what the US and Japan have said, what Japan is actually doing is rekindling the regional arms race and disrupting the peaceful and stable environment in the region. The scars of history remain vivid in people's minds, and the real danger is quietly approaching. Whether it is to prevent the resurgence of Japanese militarism or to avoid the upspiral of regional security dilemmas, it is necessary for the international community to throw cold water on Japan's foolhardiness.