Japan and the North Korean Threat

Is there any other country on earth about which this sentence could be written?

Despite being rigidly observed, Japan’s 1976 ban on arms exports was never passed as a law.

Interesting to note that the only exception made to the ban to date was with regard to missile defense technology to address North Korean proliferation threats.

As troublesome as the now-nuclear DPRK is to all parties involved, the major destabilization risk, outside of a sudden collapse of the regime, still involves Japan’s potential response. Even if it predates today’s test, the proposed lifting of the export ban comes in the aftermath of the DPRK’s recent “satellite” test launch, and has to be seen in the same overall context that leads to speculation about a potentially nuclear Japan.

This strikes me as something less disparate than apples and oranges — call it a tangerine to oranges comparison. Defense exports will ultimately result in increased Japanese autonomy in the defense sector. That, in turn, reflects, at least in the long-term, some amount of uncertainty over U.S. security guarantees, which is the same calculation a Japanese nuclear capacity would reflect. It comes, too, at a time when the U.S. is making increased demands for Japan to weaken its prohibitions against military deployments.

This, to me, underlines the big difference between the American Century that’s closing and the Asian Century to come. America’s emergence took place in the context of a stable Western Hemisphere, and resulted from the space made available by Europe’s eclipse. The Asian Century, by contrast, takes place in a region where the fundamental security architecture is experiencing enormous pressure, and undergoing both tectonic shifts and volatile, sudden changes.

China doesn’t have, and will never be able to have, an Asian equivalent of the Monroe Doctrine. Neither does any other Asian country. So this kind of back-and-forth security escalation — simultaneous with efforts toward regional integration — seems like what the region can expect for the near future.