At the end of 2022, Japan announced substantial changes to its defence posture with the publication of a new National Security Strategy, a National Defence Strategy, and a Defence Buildup Programme. These included a boosted defence budget and the addition of deterrence through counterstrike capabilities.

The policy shift is partly driven by the war in Ukraine, even if it can also be seen in the light of a much longer process of incremental changes. Furthermore, the new defence policy should be viewed in a broader context as part of Japan’s evolving multi-layered security strategy.

In addition to deterrence, other central pillars of this multi-layered strategy include coalition-building through alignment, Official Security Assistance for developing countries, a normatively pragmatic engagement with the Global South, and economic security.

Japan’s enhanced capabilities and increasingly proactive stance on coalition-building and alignment policy offer opportunities for cooperation, including with the EU and NATO. However, a more robust defence posture is offset by domestic challenges, including institutionalized self-imposed restrictions, political opposition, public opinion, economic and fiscal factors, and a greying population.

Senior Research Fellow