Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, wants to strengthen the country’s military, despite a commitment in the constitution to pacifism.
The Self Defence Force is ever vigilant against an attack by North Korea, which has previously launched ballistic missiles over Japanese territory. It is also mindful of the emerging military challenge from China.
This week, the Nikkei reports that a debate has started in the Diet about whether Japan should be able to shoot missiles at an enemy base if it believes that an attack is imminent.
Many other countries, including Japan’s ally the United States, have authorised their military to act swiftly if their nation is threatened.
Japan usually follows America’s lead on all defence issues. However, there have been tensions in the alliance recently.
Japan has scrapped a plan to buy an expensive missile shield system from the US known as Aegis Ashore, following strong local opposition in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures. There are also complaints about the cost of the weapons: $4 billion dollars, double the original estimate.
Mr Abe and his supporters believe Japan should be more independent from the United States and they want to change the constitution, to convert the Self Defence Force into an international army.
Donald Trump believes that if Japan takes a bigger role in protecting itself, the US military could then shift more resources to other parts of the Indo-Pacific, such as the South China Sea.
However, this is a topic on which political opinion in Japan is sharply divided and on which people in other nations, especially South Korea and China, also hold strong views.