Sasakawa USA Forum Issue No. 4
The Persistent Power of 1 Percent
How an informal policy changed Pacific regional power dynamics
Among the choices that have complicated Japanese defense, one of the most consequential has been Japan’s self-imposed limit on national defense spending. Issued in 1976 and abolished in 1987, the impact of Japan’s decision to limit military spending to 1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) is still felt today. The decision’s roots can be found within a mix of issues, including antiwar sentiment, Cold War strategy, economic recovery imperatives, the Ministry of Finance’s power of the purse, and individual personalities. Although it was never enacted into law, the policy’s impacts on a rising Asia in the twenty-first century reflect defense policies that could have been; roads not taken that have changed the region drastically, for better or worse. By examining Japan’s decision to impose a 1 percent limit on its own military spending, we can better understand current Asia-Pacific regional defense arrangements.
About the author
Major John C. Wright is a U.S. Air Force officer, pilot, and Mansfield Fellow. He has flown the T-37A, T-1A, C-17A, and RQ-4B aircraft, and has participated in both the most recent Iraqi campaign and Afghanistan campaign. He is currently serving as Japan Country Director, International Affairs, at the Pacific Air Forces Headquarters in Honolulu, Hawaii.
About the Sasakawa USA Forum
This paper serves as Issue No. 4 of the Sasakawa USA Forum, a platform for research and analysis related to Japan and U.S.-Japan relations in a bilateral, regional, and global context. In order to gain a more comprehensive view of U.S.-Japan relations, the Sasakawa USA Forum publishes research from experts outside of our organization. Click here for details on how to submit research for consideration.