The Yoshida Doctrine Revised: Japan's Shifting Foreign and Defense Policy and Its Implications For America

Date of Graduation

Spring 2004


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

William Van Cleave


Two recent events--the collapse of the Soviet Union and the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001--have altered Japanese thinking about the security environment in Northeast Asia. In addition to defending Japan against security threats and intimidation and protecting the sea lanes of communication, Japan's Self-Defense Forces must now manage a variety of emerging security threats including North Korean ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, Chinese hegemonic ambitions, and territorial disputes with East Asian neighbors. Once known for their reluctance to engage in international conflicts, members of Tokyo's political left, right, and center are upgrading the SDF's capabilities, expanding the military's area of operations, and deploying a limited missile defense system capable of intercepting some ballistic missiles. Likewise, Japanese politicians are now discussing nuclear weapons in a manner that was once considered taboo. This thesis traces the evolution of Japan's defense policy through the Cold War and into the twenty-first century, paying special attention to the security relationship with the United States. Using three specific issues as a litmus test--conventional forces, missile defense, and nuclear weapons--the changes in Japan's defense policy can be better understood. In light of Tokyo's heightened profile, the thesis concludes that Washington cannot neglect the special relationship between Japan and the United States. Tokyo should be encouraged to provide leadership in East Asia, but Washington must monitor future developoments in Tokyo carefully to ensure that as Japan rises it does so on terms favorable toward the United States.


Japan, military, missile defense, nuclear weapons, East Asian security

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Joshua P. Rowan