The defense is based on bilateral cooperation with the
United States in accordance with the 1951 Defense Pact,
renegotiated in 1960. North Korean over-flight in 1996 with
missiles through Japanese airspace, laws have been passed
that have resulted in increased ability to withstand both
foreign military attack and terrorist attacks. An in-house
satellite monitoring system is in operation. During the 1991
US-sanctioned war against Iraq, an operation of combat
forces outside Japanese territory was discussed. In the
aftermath of the war, four minesweepers were deployed.
In April 1996, a bilateral agreement was reached at the
state level to support Japan's US military commitments in
Iraq and the surrounding area. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that JPN stands for Japan. However, Article 9 of the
Japanese Constitution prohibits active participation. In
2003, a decision was made to join 1,000 people in Iraq
during the postwar period. This more outward defense policy
was aborted in 2008 with a return to the focus on
self-defense based on existing agreements and an opening
The defense, the self-defense forces, comprises (2009)
240,000 men recruited with 42,000 men in reserve and is
undergoing significant modernization with support from the
country's own weapons industry. Costs have for a long time
been about 1% of GDP (0.93% in 2007).
The defense is organized in an army of 148,000 men with
nine divisions as well as an airborne brigade. The Navy
comprises 44,000 men with 16 submarines, 52 fighters/
frigates, nine patrol boats, five landing craft and a naval
aircraft with 80 fighter planes and 91 combat helicopters.
The material is of Western, American and native origin.
The Air Force comprises 45,500 men with 270 fighter
aircraft and 30 larger transport aircraft. Semi-military
security forces amount to 12,000 men. The Navy has 3,700
men, about 20 combat ships and two war bases.
In Japanese territory, the United States has significant
combat forces, a total of 33,000 men, of which 2,500 men are
Army units, 14,500 men from the Navy, 12,500 men from the
Air Force with about 40 fighter aircraft.
Japan participates in UN peacekeeping operations in
Kuwait, the Middle East (UNDOF) and Nepal (UNMIN) to a
Japan's defense overview
Japan's military forces are called self-defense forces.
Article 9 of the Constitution lays down a doctrine that the
Japanese people should for all time abstain from war and
military power or threats in international conflicts. The
2012 defense reform recognizes this, but at the same time
emphasizes that Japan has the right to strike back if the
country is attacked by a foreign power, and the
modernization of the Japanese defense forces has given them
a more offensive role in recent years.
In 1960, Japan signed a mutual security agreement with
the US, which has bases in the country and maintains a
strength of 53,900 personnel (2018). A law amendment in 1992
allowed Japanese troops to participate in UN peacekeeping
The military service is voluntary for both men and women
from the age of 18. The total force figures for Japan's
armed forces are 247,150 active personnel, with a reserve of
56,000 personnel (2018, IISS). In addition, there are 14,000
personnel in the semi-military coastguard.
The army has a workforce of 150,850 active personnel.
Heavy equipment includes 667 tanks (250 type 74, 341 type
90, and 76 type 10), 68 storm tanks and 795 armored
personnel vehicles. In addition, the Army has 419
helicopters, of which 70 are combat helicopters (59 Cobra
and 11 Apache), and nine light transport aircraft.
The Air Force has a workforce of 46,950 active personnel.
Materials include 189 fighters of a F-15 Eagle, 148 combat
aircraft (88 F-2, 51 Phantom II and nine F-35 Lightning II),
three EK-fly, 13 AEW & C-plane of a E-2 Hawkeye, four AWACS
aircraft, 17 reconnaissance aircraft, six tankers, 26 rescue
aircraft, 59 transport aircraft, 246 training aircraft (of
which 197 T-4 can also be used as light fighter aircraft),
15 heavy transport helicopters, and 35 rescue helicopters.
The Navy has a workforce of 45,350 active personnel. The
fleet includes 20 tactical submarines, four helicopter
aircraft, three amphibious warships, two cruisers, 33
fighters, 10 frigates, six patrol vessels, 27 minesweepers,
eight landings, and 21 logistics and auxiliary vessels. The
Navy's aircraft include 78 patrol aircraft (62 P-3 Orion and
16 P-1), five rescue aircraft, 27 transport aircraft, and
The Coast Guard has a workforce of 14,000 active
personnel, 367 patrol vessels, 16 auxiliary vessels, 31
aircraft and 52 helicopters.
Japan had two naval vessels in the Gulf of Aden in 2018,
and 170 personnel and two patrol aircraft in Djibouti. Japan
also participated in the UN operation in South Sudan
(UNMISS) with four personnel.
Japan's foreign policy
Japan's foreign policy is characterized by relations with
the United States after World War II. Japan was among the
losers of the war and was occupied by the United States in
the years 1945–1952. During this period, Japan was not
allowed to pursue its own foreign policy. Japan was imposed
a pacifist constitution in 1947; Re-arming was prohibited.
The United States' attitude to Japan changed with the
Communist takeover of China in 1949 and the outbreak of the
Korean War in 1950. In 1951, a peace treaty was signed in
which Japan renounced all possessions and demands in China,
and in 1952 Japan regained full sovereignty.
After World War II, Japan maintained a low foreign policy
profile despite the country's growing economic strength, and
was in many ways a supporter of the United States. After the
end of the Cold War, Tokyo has become more active in its
foreign policy, especially in Asia.
Other key countries for Japan's foreign policy are China,
North Korea and Russia.
Relationship with the United States
General Douglas MacArthur signs Japan's World War II
capitulation on behalf of the Allies aboard the USS Missouri
in the Gulf of Tokyo on September 2, 1945. Behind him is
Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright (left) and British
Lieutenant Arthur Percival.
This was the beginning of the American occupation of
Japan. Mac Arthur was then occupation manager in Japan until
The 1951 Japanese-American Security Pact, revised in 1960
and 1996, has been a cornerstone of the Tokyo-Washington
relationship. It is not a common military alliance in the
usual sense, but gives the United States the right to base
on Japanese territory; yet in 2014, more than 49,000 US
soldiers were stationed on the Japanese islands, most on
Okinawa. Otherwise, the security pact has been disputed in
Japan, and trends in the upheaval have provoked strong
negative reactions from neighboring countries.
The 1996 Hashimoto - Clinton Summit reaffirmed the
Defense Alliance. Japan, according to American wishes,
assumed an expanded defense policy role, including
regionally. With its pacifist constitution, since the 1950s,
Japan has considered itself prevented from participating in
peacekeeping operations with armed forces. Law amendments
following the terrorist attacks in the United States on
September 11, 2001 have enabled a more active role. A
constitutional revision has also covered the disputed
Article 9, where Japan waives its right to resolve
international conflicts through the use of threats or
Trade policy imbalance has since the mid-1980s led to
Japan-US relations. In the early 1990s, Japan's trade
surplus set a record high. The peak was reached in 1993 with
a current trade surplus of $ 131.3 billion; this triggered
massive international criticism and demands for expanded
market access. The United States threatened several times
with penalties, and Japan imposed so-called voluntary export
restrictions. Trade surplus dropped significantly from the
mid-1990s, as a result of Japan importing more and adding
much of its industrial production abroad.
Relationship with China
Following Mao Zedong's death in 1976, a rapid approach to
China occurred, stimulated by China's rapid evolution
towards market economy. Japan became the largest trading
partner of the People's Republic of China, and a significant
part of the country's process industry was relocated to
China in particular in the 1990s. In 1998, President Jiang
Zemin made the first Chinese state visit to Japan. The
meeting was not a success, as the two countries' top leaders
did not agree with the view of the war between China and
Japan (1931-1945). Japanese troops' conduct during the war
is still a sore point. Proposals to give Japan a permanent
seat on the UN Security Council have repeatedly been met
with threats of Chinese veto. However, the proposal has
received Norway's support. Japan has in recent years focused
on strengthening its position within the UN system, and had
one of the five rotational positions in the UN Security
Council in 2009-2010.
Relations with China were again somewhat strained during
Koizumi, especially as he visited the disputed Yasukuni
Temple, which is dedicated to Japan's fallen, several times
as head of government. The relationship has since improved.
First visit of a Japanese naval vessel to a Chinese port
since 1945 took place in June 2008: Destroyer Sazanmi
anchored in Zhanjiang with emergency supplies for victims
following the Sichuan earthquake. The same month, the two
countries reached an agreement on joint extraction of a
disputed gas field in the East China Sea. There has long
been controversy and debate over the sharing of economic
zone in the East China Sea, including the disputed Senkaku
Islands (Diaoyutai in Chinese).
Relations with North Korea
The most important foreign policy case for Japan is North
Korea. The threat from North Korea's nuclear and rocket
programs has prompted Japan and the United States to discuss
establishing a rocket shield over the Japanese islands.
Japan has responded very sharply to North Korean rocket and
nuclear tests. There has been intensified debate in Japan
about strengthening the defense in light of a broader
regional armament. The many abductions of Japanese citizens
to North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s have long created
sparks between the two countries. Pyongyang said in 2008 he
was willing to conduct further investigations into the case,
after first admitting that North Korean agents abducted 13
Japanese citizens. Five of them, reportedly the only
survivors, were allowed to visit Japan in 2002, but without
bringing their families. Japan claims that at least 37
Japanese were abducted to North Korea and that some may
still be alive. North Korea's lack of cooperation in this
matter has long been an obstacle to normalizing the
Relations with Russia
Attempts to conclude a peace agreement with the Soviet
Union/Russia have been stranded time and time again due to
the dispute over the right to rule over four islands
(Shikotan, Kunashiri, Etorofu and Habomai) north of
Hokkaido. Both countries claim the archipelago that the
Russians call the South Kurils and the Japanese Northern
Territories, which was occupied and annexed by the Soviet
Union in 1945. In February 2009, Prime Minister Aso and
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met on the island of
Sakhalin, without coming closer to a solution.
In the period 1991–2002, Japan was the world's largest
aid donor, with annual contributions of about $ 10 billion,
and the second largest contributor to the UN system with a
fifth of the UN budget. Critics, however, argue that Japan's
aid policy is guided more by consideration of Japanese
interests than recipients' needs. Since 2002, Japan's
assistance has been the second largest nominal, accounting
for just over 0.2 percent of the country's GDP.