Asia's most lethal military? What Abe's defense plans mean for Japan and the region
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About This Event

Event Summary

In light of the Abe government's recent increase in defense spending, on Wednesday morning AEI hosted a panel of experts to discuss Japan's military modernization and its implications for both the United States and Asia.

James Schoff from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Asia Program noted that although he expects an increasingly capable Japanese military, Japan's defense budget has not yet reached where it was a decade ago. He argued that current spending is neither dramatic nor static.

Ely Ratner of the Center for New American Security stated that while the modernization was inevitable given recent military trends in Asia, Japan is developing more quickly than anticipated. He suggested the government move forward with diplomatic discretion and transparency.

Mackenzie Eaglen of AEI stressed the need for the United States to play a supportive role toward Japan, given that US defense cuts will require our allies to accept more risk and oblige their militaries to play a larger role on the world stage.

While agreeing that Japan's military buildup does not pose a threat to either the United States or the Asian region, the panelists emphasized that Japan must focus on building multilateral relationships to strengthen regional stability and send a message of peaceful military development.
--Olivia Blanchette

Event Description

Is Japan about to become Asia’s most lethal military power? Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has been exploring avenues to dramatically improve Japan’s military capabilities, including adding precision-guided munitions and increasing missile defense and aerial refueling capabilities. If successful, Japan may develop one of the region’s best preemptive strike capabilities, which could be used against North Korea or to protect Japan’s vulnerable southwestern islands from invasion.

In addition, Abe plans to revise Japan’s constitution to allow for more regular military operations and to set up a national security council. This month, the US and Japan will conduct a military exercise in California centered on the development of joint amphibious capabilities.

Can Abe realize these plans, and what are the potential obstacles to his agenda? How will other regional powers react? A panel of experts will convene at AEI to answer these and other questions.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.

Agenda

8:15 AM
Registration and Breakfast

8:30 AM
Panel Discussion
Speakers:
Mackenzie Eaglen, AEI
Ely Ratner, Center for New American Security
James Schoff, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Moderator:
Michael Auslin, AEI

9:30 AM
Question-and-Answer Session

9:45 AM
Adjournment

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact John VerWey at [email protected], 202.862.5839.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Michael Auslin is AEI's director of Japan Studies. He was an associate professor of history and senior research fellow at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University before joining AEI. A frequent commentator in US and foreign media, Auslin is also a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. His writings on Asia and Japan include the book “Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations” (Harvard University Press, 2011) and the report “Security in the Indo-Pacific Commons: Toward a Regional Strategy” (AEI Press, 2010). He has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, a Marshall Memorial Fellow by the German Marshall Fund, and a Fulbright and Japan Foundation Scholar.

Mackenzie Eaglen
is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at AEI. She has worked on defense issues in the US Congress — both in the House of Representatives and Senate — and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness, and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.

Ely Ratner is the deputy director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. His research interests include US national security strategy in Asia, China’s foreign relations in the region, and the US-China bilateral relationship. Ratner recently served in the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the US State Department as the lead political officer covering China’s external relations in Asia. He was also previously an international affairs fellow sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. He has likewise served as an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation and worked in the US Senate in the office of former senator and current Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), and later as a professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ratner is a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and previously served as an associate and research fellow in the inaugural class of the National Asia Research Program.

James Schoff is a senior associate in the Asia Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His research focuses on US-Japan relations and regional engagement, Japanese politics, and the private sector's role in Japanese policymaking. He previously served as senior adviser for East Asia policy at the US Office of the Secretary of Defense, and as director of Asia Pacific Studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA). At the Department of Defense, Schoff was responsible for strategic planning and policy development for relations with Japan and the Republic of Korea. He also spearheaded trilateral initiatives and regional security cooperation issues, including missile defense, disaster relief, and maritime security. From 2003 to 2010, Schoff directed Asia Pacific Studies at IFPA in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Before joining IFPA, he served as program officer in charge of policy studies at the United States-Japan Foundation in New York.

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