Japan Moves Away From Pacifist Ways by Approving Plan to Sell Weapons to Other Nations

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 07, 2024

Japan has not participated in any war since the end of World War II in 1945. The nation rewrote its entire constitution that year and now practices pacifism and famously refrains from any military violence.

However, Japan still has a military in case it needs to defend its people. In fact, Japan has some of the best weapons and fighter jets on the planet. And now, they’ve decided to sell them to a country that will use them for war.

Understanding the Japanese Military

Contrary to popular belief, Japan has an active military, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF). The JSDF includes the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

Members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force walk in a parade

Source: Reddit

The word “self-defense” is impossible to miss as it is used prominently in every faction of the country’s military. Essentially, Japan’s military is only available in case of invasion; they will never be deployed to fight in a war abroad.


Didn’t Japan Participate in World War II?

Those who remember the 20th century may be wondering: Didn’t Japan participate in World War II?

Japanese troops march through the streets of Labuan, Borneo, on January 14, 1942/Photograph of a Japanese jet flying above Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Source: Wikipedia/Alamy

The answer is yes; Japan did fight in WWII from 1940 to 1945, but that was the last war the country ever participated in.

Drastic Changes Were Made to Japan’s Postwar Constitution

Immediately after WWII, Japan decided to rewrite its constitution to include an exceptionally important new clause. They then announced that, from then on, it would be a pacifist country that would not participate in war of any kind.

The Preamble to the Japanese Constitution written after WWII in 1946

Source: Wikipedia

The new Japanese Constitution explained, “Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.”

Japan Still Spends $42.6 Billion a Year on Its Military

However, as Japan’s government fully understood the threat of war, they decided to ensure their people were always safe from potential attacks by creating a self-defense militia.

Japanese Yen spread out on a table

Source: EveryPixel

Over the past 80 years, Japan has spent billions of dollars on its self-defense weapons, including fighter jets, battleships, short-range missiles, and, of course, the men and women who are trained to defend the country. The current estimate is that Japan spends a whopping $42.6 billion (6.5 trillion Japanese Yen) every year on its self-defense military.

Japan Has Made Some of the Best Fighter Jets on the Planet

With this immense budget, Japan has been able to build some of the most impressive and groundbreaking fighter jets on the planet.

Digital illustration of the next-generation Japanese fighter jets

Source: @FrontCost/YouTube

With a focus on aeronautical engineering, Japan has designed and built the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, and the Mitsubishi F-2, all of which are considered some of the best fighter jets ever made.


Japan’s Cabinet Decided Last Week That They Are Ready to Sell Their Jets

For decades, Japan has refused to sell its jets to any country, as many argued it would have been considered participating in a war. Something that the Land of the Rising Sun vowed never to do again.

Britain’s Defense Minister Grant Shapps, Japanese Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, and Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto shake hands on December 14, 2023

Source: Alamy

However, in an incredibly surprising turn of events, the Japanese Cabinet recently agreed to sell its next-generation fighter jets and lethal weapons to other countries.


Who Will Buy Japanese Fighter Jets?

The Cabinet did set several specific stipulations for the sale of its fighter jets and other lethal weapons. First, they cannot be sold to a country participating in an ongoing conflict. Second, they can only be sold to countries that have signed defense pacts with Japan.

Several Japanese fighter jets fly through the sky during an airshow

Source: Reddit

And third, and maybe most importantly, every single sale has to be individually approved by the Cabinet. Essentially ensuring that this new policy will not be overused accidentally.


Why Did Japan Change Its Policies?

It’s widely understood that tensions are intensifying between Japan and its neighbors, China and North Korea. The Cabinet explained that they believed this was the best way to maintain credibility with their allies.

Digital illustration of a Chinese flag flying against a blue sky

Source: Freepik

Spokesperson for the Japanese government, Yoshimasa Hayashi, explained, “The plan to make fighter jets with capabilities essential for the security of our nation must be realized to ensure that our nation’s defenses won’t be compromised.”


Technically, This Isn’t the First Time Japan Has Changed Its Constitution

This decision is certainly a considerable change for Japan, though it’s important to understand this isn’t the first time the nation has adjusted its constitution in this way.

A meeting of Japan’s National Diet in 2007

Source: Britannica

When the new constitution was written in 1946, it clearly stated that military equipment and weapons would not be exported. However, that rule was eased in 2014, and again in December 2023 when Japan allowed the lethal weapons it made with a foreign license to be exported to those countries.


Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Is Set to Meet With President Biden in April

Although Japan has several defense allies, arguably, one of the nation’s most essential partnerships is with the United States. The US-Japan Security Treaty was signed in 1960 and remains intact to this day.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to an audience

Source: @EuroNews/YouTube

Interestingly, the Cabinet decision was announced just weeks before Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was due in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Joe Biden. Some say the Prime Minister plans to focus their get-together on Japan’s readiness and availability within their partnership. Something he can now prove via the Cabinet’s approval of fighter jet sales.


Japan Promises Its People and the World It’s Still a Pacifist Nation

Some Japanese citizens and people worldwide have argued this decision questions the country’s dedication to pacifism. However, the Cabinet claims it is absolutely still focused on keeping Japan a pacifist nation.

A small Japanese flag sits on a wooden desk

Source: Freepik

Minoru Kihara, Japan’s Defense Minister, told the press potential exports would undergo a “strict decision process” and that Japan retains the “basic philosophy of a pacifist nation.”