The ‘Know Your Region’ series is designed to support unit and individual professional military education on the South East Asian region. It’s important for all serving members of our military to have a foundational knowledge of the countries and issues in the Indo-Pacific.


On this page:

  • Military Information
  • Engagement, Security Cooperation and Deterrence
  • Military Technology


Military Information

Since the turn of the 20th Century, Japan’s relationship with its military has gone from a patriotic and celebrated offensive force to one of self-defence in its current form – the Japanese Self Defence Force (JSDF) – which was formed in 1954.

Japan’s military personnel include 250,000 active serving members of the JSDF, with 55,000 in the part time reserve force.  Japan ranked eighth in global military spending in 2019; this is partly due to former Prime Minister Abe’s national security strategy of 2013. With growing regional security pressures from China and North Korea, Japan seems likely to continue to strengthen its military presence in the region, expand upon and upgrade its physical military resources to become a powerful presence, able to defend itself and its neighbours when required.

This clip gives an excellent pictorial overview of how the Japanese Defence forces have transformed since 1950.

For further information on Japan’s Defence Forces, see the resources below:


Engagement, Security Cooperation and Deterrence

Japan’s former Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, invested in the country’s defence force to grow its capability and strengthen its national security.  In support of taking responsibility for its own defence, the Abe administration successfully reinterpreted Article 9 of the Constitution to enable the JSDF to defend its allies in certain circumstances, although actual amendments to Article 9 were unsuccessful prior to his resignation in 2020.

Japan’s security relationship with the US is strengthened by mutual cooperation for peace, stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan also wants to leverage support off like-minded regional neighbours also concerned with China’s growing influence, and potential threats from North Korea.

Recent talks with Australia have also led to a reciprocal agreement between the two countries to strengthen their strategic and security relationships, highlighted in the two videos below:

For more information on Japan’s engagement, security cooperation and deterrence, select from the resources below.


Military Technology

In recent years, Japan has invested heavily in technology to advance its Defence Force and strengthen its national security. Japan has engaged with its closest ally, the USA, to develop new equipment, including fighter jets, and currently has a budget of $US 52 billion to develop the JSDF, which is detailed in this video:


The videos below give some insight into Japan’s military and technological capabilities:

For more information on Japan’s military technology, see the resources below


Discussion questions

  1. In recent years, Japan has strived to amend Article 9 of its constitution to allow the JSDF greater ability defend the nation and its allies. Should Japan be given the freedom to change Article 9 and become more than just a self-defence force? If so, how might this influence their approach to territorial disputes such as the Senkaku Islands? How might Japan’s neighbours view this from a wartime legacy perspective?
  2. Australia and Japan have agreed on a reciprocal defence pact which will support each country’s national security and strategic intent. How will this pact influence regional security issues, particularly in the South China Sea?
  3. Japan has risen to be one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the region, predominantly through US support. Could the rise of Chinese military power lead to an arms race in North Asia? How will this impact Australia’s relationships with nations in the region?
  4. The US and Japanese military relationship is the cornerstone of both nations strategic approach to the north-west Pacific. What challenges does rising Chinese global influence pose to this relationship? What role might be expected from Australia in the ongoing development and management of regional relationships?