Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Professor Jennifer Taw

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© 2017 Brian Sydow


Postwar Japan’s defense policy is an anomaly; it is a non-neutral middle power that has regularly resisted translating its economic strength into military strength. This paper seeks to analyze postwar Japan’s defense policy at the international systemic and domestic unit levels through the use of neoclassical realism, and then make predictions as to where Japanese defense policy will go. First, this paper provides an overview of relevant neoclassical realist theoretical literature, before moving on to an examination of the norms created by Japan’s defense policies during the Cold War. The next chapter focuses on the post-Cold War evolution, in which systemic level factors pushed Japan towards rearmament. Next is an analysis of the most recent period of leadership by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, covering the challenges that Japan faces and the methods he and his administration have used to advance Japanese security policy, short of constitutional amendment. This paper then examines the current state and trends of national-level factors restricting policymakers, and predicts whether these trends will continue.

This paper concludes that international-level pressures have consistently driven the major changes to Japanese defense policy, though these responses have been restricted by national-level factors, in particular Article 9 of the constitution and large pacifist protests. However, these factors are becoming less and less effective at restraining an expansion of Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF). Furthermore, there has been little effort to rollback the remilitarization of the SDF. Given the strength of the pro-constitutional-revision Liberal Democratic Party, the weakness of the opposition in the Diet, and the continuing decline of the importance of pacifism to the Japanese public, this paper concludes that Article 9 will be revised to allow for the expansion of Japan’s security policy. This conclusion can provide insight into how Japan will be able to act in the future, and thereby help plan the foreign policies of other nations in the region.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.