Japan’s next leader wants freer rein for military

Japan’s military is kept on a very short leash under a war-renouncing constitution written by U.S. officials whose main concern was keeping Japan from rearming soon after World War II. But if Japan’s soon-to-be prime minister Shinzo Abe has his way, the status quo may be in for some change.

Abe, set to take office for a second time after leading his conservative party to victory in elections last Sunday, has vowed a fundamental review of Japan’s taboo-ridden postwar security policies and proposed ideas that range from changing the name of the military – now called the Japan Self-Defense Forces – to revising the constitution itself.

Most of all, he wants to open the door to what the Japanese call “collective defense,” which would allow Japan’s troops to fight alongside their allies – especially the U.S. troops who are obliged to defend Japan – if either comes under direct attack. The United States has about 50,000 troops in Japan, including its largest air base in Asia. Continue reading