This study investigates the development of the Japanese Self Defense Forces into a military force capable of defending Japan and also of projecting power within the East Asian region. According to statements by the Japanese Defense Agency, the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other officials, North Korea is viewed as the primary threat to Japanese security. However, neither North Korea, nor any other potential adversary is currently capable of mounting an armed invasion of Japan. Yet, Japan continues to spend billions on defense, behind only the United States and Russia, and expand the capabilities of her forces.
This study attempts to explain the motivation behind what appears on the surface to be an overly large military buildup. It does this by comparing the military capabilities being created by current Japanese ground, air and naval programs with the security threats to Japan. The threat to Japan by North Korean ballistic missiles is studied, as are other threats that have appeared in the post-Cold War environment. The final analysis shows that Japans military development seems to be directed toward increasing Japans role as a regional power and a participant in peacekeeping activities.