“Over nearly seven decades, Japan has relied on commitments from the United States, its most important ally, for protection in the event of an enemy attack. Japan hosts the largest contingent of overseas American troops and regularly conducts drills with them. It has purchased more American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets than any other country outside the United States.
Yet now, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine challenges long-held security assumptions and as threats from China and North Korea multiply, Japan is starting to rely more on itself, a shift that could quietly alter the balance of power in Asia.
The country’s governing party is pushing to increase Japan’s defense budget drastically, develop more military hardware domestically and redefine what it can do with those weapons under the pacifist Constitution in place since the end of World War II.
By asserting its own deterrent power, Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — could become less a military protectorate of the United States and more an equal partner. That could help fulfill the desire of American leaders for Japan to serve as a stronger military counter to China, as Beijing uses its rapidly improving armed forces to menace Taiwan and send ballistic missiles and coast guard ships into Japan’s territorial waters.”