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HomeGeopolitical CompassEast AsiaThe South China Sea dispute: Will it impact Japan's security policy?

The South China Sea dispute: Will it impact Japan’s security policy?

Author:  Ulupi Borah

Affiliation: Centre for Indo-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India)

Organization/Publisher: Taylor & Francis Online

Date/Place:  Jul 9, 2020/UK

Type of Literature: Article

Number of Pages: 25


Keywords: South China Sea, Security Strategy, Free Trade



The importance of the South China Sea and the rising competition of actors around it is forcing Japan to rethink its strategic framework, and to augment its military capabilities outside of the US security umbrella. Japan’s pacifist policy is increasingly seen as less satisfactory of security needs, especially with its dependency on trade through the South China Sea and the Malacca Strait. The desire to maintain a free Indo-Pacific sea trade is changing Japan’s security doctrine. Manifesting in the revision of Article 9 of its constitution, expanding the role of the Self Defence Force (SDF), the creation of the National Security Council in 2013, loosening the ban on arms sales and emphasizing the US-Japan alliance, all while the Americans were pushing for more security reforms. It is certain that Japan has a capacity and need to acquire a normal military, especially with China’s rising power, existing strained relations in the East China Sea, and the prospect that the US would not cover for Japan all the time. In addition, the security strategy includes a multilateral-relations network in the South China Sea region, based on respecting International Law and maintaining the flow of free trade. These countries include Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and also China, with whom Japan recognizes the value of dialogue. Japan is adopting a dual strategy of having greater strategic autonomy and peacefully resolving disputes, while also acquiring offensive capabilities and using its advanced technologies to support the establishment of a normal military. Though relations with China are to be primarily peaceful if not positive as to maintain vital economic connections.


By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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