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Japan's new prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, is subtly calling for strengthening Japan's Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and expanding their reach. But a standing military and the right of belligerency are illegal under the Japanese Constitution.
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So can and will Japan re-arm? Increasingly, the answer appears to be yes. Japan's economic tailspin and the rise of a new generation are colliding with a new geopolitical reality in Asia: the American desire to scale back as China ascends. Already Tokyo has most of the components of a large, modern military; only a few key pieces are missing, and they can be obtained easily.
Signs are emerging on various fronts. In his first policy speech to Japan's parliament, Koizumi pushed for a foreign policy independent of the United States, saying that "it is the duty of the political leadership to consider what kind of structure should be created in the event that the state or the people are exposed to crises." Koizumi indicated that he would put forward "emergency legislation" to addresses changing security needs.
Domestic support for the pacifistic article of the constitution,
Article 9, remains mixed: Half the population supports revising it and half is against such a change. Yet more and more, there are indications that Japanese under age 50 are prepared for Japan to play a greater role in the security of Asia.