Japanese National Security Discourse

Towards the end of the Cold War, many analysts expected Japan – then an emerging economic power – to play an increasingly assertive foreign role in East Asia and abroad.  These predictions have not been borne out.  Despite a large economy and an increasingly competitive security environment, Japan has consistently opted to forego a large military and pursed limited strategic objectives in East Asia and elsewhere.

Building on Professor Richard Samuels’ book Securing Japan (2007), this project examines the domestic discourse surrounding Tokyo’s national security policy.  It assesses the Japanese security debate and focuses on how internal changes may have external consequences for global energy security, nuclear proliferation, trade and financial stability, the Asian balance of power, and Japanese attitudes toward US foreign policy.  Simultaneously, it maps the Japanese security discourse against Tokyo’s military strategy and equipment acquisition plans.

Dr. Richard Samuels manages this project.  Professor Samuels collaborates with Narushige Michishita of Tokyo’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and colleagues at the RAND Corporation on portions of the research.  A chapter entitled “Hugging and Hedging: Hugging and Hedging: The Japanese Security Debate” is forthcoming in an edited volume addressing the domestic foreign policy dynamics of China, India, Russia, Iran and Japan.  Also forthcoming is a piece by the RAND Corporation comparing Japan’s domestic dialogue to its long-term defense plans..

Related Publications

Richard J. Samuels and Narushige Michishita, “Hugging and Hedging: The Japanese Security Debate,” in Worldviews of the Major and Aspiring Powers: Exploring Foreign Policy Debates Abroad (forthcoming).

Richard J. Samuels, “New Fighting Power!: Japan’s Growing Maritime Capabilities and East Asian Security,” International Security 32, no. 3 (Winter 2007-2008): 84-112.

Richard J. Samuels, “Securing Japan: The Current Discourse,” Journal of Japanese Studies 33, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 15-51.

Richard J. Samuels, Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell 2007).


Dr. Richard Samuels, Ford International Professor of Political Science and Director of MIT’s Center for International Studies, manages this project.