Although legislation enabling Japan to broaden its military role officially went into effect last week, don’t expect to see a large increase in overseas combat operations anytime soon, Sasakawa USA’s Dr. Jeffrey Hornung said March 28 in an on-air interview with Al Jazeera America.
“There needs to be one caveat to the whole discussion about this,” he explained. “While Japan does have this legislation that has relaxed some of the restrictions on what it could do in the past, and it does have the ability now to exercise collective self-defense, the use of the Japan Self-Defense Forces overseas is still a political football. So I would be hesitant to say [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe would be using the Self-Defense Forces oversees in any great way, any time soon.”
Hornung said the legislation is a small step, though both critics and supporters tend to characterize the change as a larger operational shift than it actually is.
“There’s a middle ground here,” Hornung said. “Japan can do more, but it’s not going to be a Britain of Asia that can go out on combat operations out in the world with the United States.”
Hornung also spoke on Japanese concerns about the rise of Donald Trump as a U.S. presidential candidate and his false rhetoric claiming Japan does not financially contribute toward America’s defense commitments there.
“The whole Donald Trump phenomenon is not being received well in Japan,” he said, echoing previous research he and others at Sasakawa USA have published on the topic. “There’s a lot of skittishness and concern that if Donald Trump becomes president, how that will affect the U.S.-Japan alliance… the forward presence of the United States in Japan is crucial if the U.S. wants to have influence in the Asia-Pacific region, especially at a time when China is becoming very active in the South China Sea.”