Connecting People & Ideas to Advance Mutual Interests in U.S.-Asia Relations

On March 24, 2023 the Mansfield Foundation convened a roundtable discussion with Professor Hideshi Tokuchi, President of the Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS). Professor Tokuchi drew on his long experience working for the Japanese government to talk about Japan’s new National Security Strategy, released in December 2022.

In his examination of the new National Security Strategy, Professor Tokuchi began by exploring an apparent contradiction in the government’s rhetoric. Despite the Japanese government’s continuous emphasis on continuity to minimize the impression of radical change, the strategy has highlighted itself as a drastic pivot. However, he clarified that this pivot is more of an evolution rather than a revolution, as the policy within the new strategy is the same, with the only difference being efforts being accelerated due to a more threatening international security environment. Professor Tokuchi pointed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s rapid military buildup, and North Korea’s record high launches of ballistic missiles as the specific threats that catalyzed Japan’s latest security efforts.

In order to address these challenges to Japanese national security, Professor Tokuchi highlighted the important role economic security plays in financing the build-up of cyber, space, and physical defense capabilities. Therefore, as highlighted in the new National Security Strategy, it is imperative for Japan to utilize its diplomatic, economic, political, and security tools to cooperate with the international community to tackle nontraditional security challenges, such as climate change, that threaten Japan’s economic security. Nevertheless, given the large amount of financial and political resources needed to implement this strategy, coupled with the potential pushback from the public, it will not be an easy task for the Kishida administration to reach the goals set by the new National Security Strategy. One way Professor Tokuchi recommended to overcome these obstacles is by updating the division of labor as Japan expands its defense role and capabilities.

In the Q&A section of the roundtable, Professor Tokuchi elaborated on the influence that Prime Minister Kishida’s image, as opposed to former Prime Minister Abe’s, had on the public’s support for the new strategy. He explained that the change in public attitude could be attributed to their apprehension regarding the strained relations between the United States and China due to Taiwan, North Korea’s missile tests, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Furthermore, he emphasized that the public’s security concerns might not persist, particularly if there is a tax hike to fund this increased defense budget.