Asian countries fearing a 'return of Japanese militarism'

From time to time, one hears of Asian neighbors of Japan “fearing a return of Japanese militarism or aggression.” This is usually in context of Japan discussing revising its peace constitution or of Japan sending troops to participate in international missions, etc.
But, let’s get **specific ** though: What exactly is there to be feared, or would this new "Japanese militarism’ possibly look like?

Is there fear that Japan would re-invade China and the Koreas? That’s as wildly improbable as the idea of modern Germany re-invading modern Russia in some Operation Barbarossa Act II.

Is it that Japan might get involved in naval skirmishes regarding islands such as the Senkakus, or oil/gas territorial water disputes? Now that is 100% plausible. But are naval skirmishes really something for Asian neighbor nations to be quaking in their boots about?
Is there anything remotely realistic about fears of Japan becoming some aggressive, invading warmongering nation again?
(Btw, I’m Asian and have lived in Asia for a long time, but it seems that the SDMB is the place to go for rational discussion about this topic. Anything involving Japan and WWII legacy tends to turn super-shrill in many other forums.)

The Japanese military was really horrible for a long time. I’d be skeptical of the Japanese military the same way I’d be skeptical of Mongolia bringing back the Khan and his hordes.

But rationally, I don’t care. Everyone else has a military, and the international community isn’t going to sit around and watch Japan gear up to rape Nanking again. So while I can see the apprehension, I can’t conclude that they should be prohibited from having a military or participating in international military action. But we should keep an eye on them, because they have a long history full of military atrocities.

I’d be interested to know how most Japanese feel about remilitarization. Particularly the thought of having their taxes go up, or having to cut other things they are used to having, in order to fund it. Japan is a very prosperous country; one of, if not the most prosperous in Asia. Japan is a lesson on what can happen when those resources normally devoted to war are devoted to the betterment of society. I’d hate to see them give that up just so they can join the rest of the world in blowing shit up.

Japan already has the 7th largest military expenditure in the world. Their constitution prevents them from having an offensive force, but due to the Cold War and fears of China and N Korea, they still have a large military.

I think there’s fear among their neighbors in part because Japan has never come fully to grips with the horrors they perpetrated during the war. Seems like there’s a rotation of prime ministers that either kind of soft pedal it and at best insincerely apologize, or claim some version of “everybody did bad things and there’s no need to apologize for it.” This is in marked contrast with Germany, which hasn’t been at that level of denial in a long time.

For sure, but fear of what, specifically? Another Japanese invasion of China? Won’t happen.

Fear of a newly aggressive government that doesn’t acknowledge past bad behavior starting to throw is weight around using intimidation and threats of force? I won’t say it’s particularly comparable, but that kind of fear is certainly a factor in what other countries worry about the US.

I wish Japan would take more responsibility for its own defense. I’d like to see them remilitarize. Buy some F-35B’s and stick 'em on the Izumo and Kaga.

Japan’s neighbors suffered some awful things at Japanese hands in living memory. I don’t think they need to be too specific. They already have all the justification they need to mistrust a militarized Japan.

Fear of another, more powerful North Korea in the region? Even if nobody invades anyone else, nobody wants Japan becoming another shitty honour culture, one that thinks the best response to somebody slandering their troops in World War II is to torpedo one of their ships.

I don’t think this is a valid comparison. The Mongols conquered most of Asia and ruled China for roughly 150 years; the Japanese military adventurism might be considered to cover 35 years from their takeover of Korea in 1910; or 14 years from their invasion of China in 1931.

I think it is the intensity of the evil (and, as mentioned, the lack of real contrition) that is responsible for the residual fear of Japanese military adventurism, rather than the length of time it was going on.

During those 35 years, access to information about world events in Japan was strictly controlled by the military government. This would not be possible any more*, and it is my opinion that the Japanese populace would be strongly opposed to any non-defensive military actions their government might try. While there is some residual nationalism or even jingoism in the countryside, the huge majority who live in cities are pragmatic and cosmopolitan enough to hate war as much as any other rational people. I don’t blame those in other countries whose parents or grandparents suffered at the hands of the Japanese military for holding on to their fear, but I think it is not a reflection of reality.

*Caveat: the full truth about wartime atrocities committed by Japanese military during those 14 years does not seem to be widespread in Japan. I think largely people don’t want to know about it, and if anything would rather focus on their victimhood as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is troubling, and I suppose if economic conditions got bad enough, unscrupulous politicians could play on those feelings. I would be very surprised, though, if this actually happened in the world we live in now.

There was a debate a while back, I think someone posted the Japanese spending something like 60-80% of GDP on military expenses during its heydey. The US, which is constantly accused of warmongering currently spends 4% (and that is high by OECD standards, most western nations spend 1-2%).

So I don’t see the Japanese public putting up with the government spending a huge % of the economy on the military, it is my understanding the Japanese middle class is already struggling to make ends meet and that is without a military.

It was my understanding that a big part of their desire was to deal with North Korea. However I’m sure the Japanese are rightly afraid of China too. Does China have any realistic intents on Japan in any way, shape or form? I know they are still angry about the invasion in the 1930s. The economy of china is already 450% bigger than Japan in PPP and is still growing.

There is an active territorial dispute between Japan and China.

(Also Japan and Russia, though I don’t think it has seen much hostility in recent years.)

Roderick Femm’s take is pretty much spot on, I think. I would say that Japan’s antiwar sentiments mostly come from preferring to think of themselves as the victims of war, rather than the victimizers. Realistically, even if the constitution is revised I have a very hard time seeing the public getting on board with the kind of military adventurism feared by others in the region. But, well, with a couple decades of rising tensions I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a major conflict.

What on Earth are you on about? ‘Really horrible for a long time’? ‘Long history full of military atrocities’? Pity this is not the Pit, then your abrasive ignorance would be addressed with the curtesy it would deserve.

I’ll prefer our former occupiers (Japanese or, God forbid, Americans) to those thieves occupying the Spratlys.

Which Asian countries are afraid of Japanese militarism? China yes, fair enough.
Korea? maybe a little bit but actually they have pretty good relations now. K pop is popular in Japan and they hosted the 2002 world cup together.

Actually I’d think that most countries in Asia welcome Japan building a bigger military as a counter weight to China. None of the other countries in Asia want to live under the hegemony of a “Chinese sphere of influence”. I would expect that if China continues to aggressively expand you’ll see an “everyone in asia except china” alliance where everyone puts aside their differences to contain China.

Whether or not you think Japan has really made atones for WW II, they are now a stable democracy with a strong anti-war political movement and a reliable western ally. I find it much harder to believe that modern Japan would invade other countries than China doing the same thing.

First, I disagree that there is fear amount their neighbors. As coremelt runs down the list, China is the one which would be the strongest against Japan becoming stronger, but that is because they want hegemony in Asia without rivals. Their goal is to challenge the US, and Japan poses no threat to them. A nuclear-armed China could level Japan before breakfast. Japan could not throw its weight around or intimidate China.

Japan has island disputes with China and Russia, and cannot intimidate either of them.

The only other country they have territory dispute is with South Korea over some rocks in the Sea of Japan, and no one is going to go to war over that, any more than Spain and the UK over Gibraltar.

The current political, military and economical realities makes it impossible for Japan to intimidate any of their neighbors. I donno, maybe they could with the Philippines, but over what?

Their ground self-defense force is only 150,000, so they’re not going to take on anyone.

With their dependence on America for defense, they can’t overstep their bounds.

As far as the question of the apologies compared with Germany, I wrote the following poston a thread concerning why the Japanese were so cruel in WWII.

This is in contrast with Japan, pre-WWII which didn’t have a stable democracy, and only a handful of generations away from samurai running around with katana and topknots. It was an authoritarian society which strongly repressed any dissonance.

Japanese are not inherently any more cruel or militant than any other ethnic group. There was a particular set of circumstance in the beginning of the 20th century which created an environment which allowed the leaders to commit horrible actions, but those circumstances do not exist now and will not occur again.

Like any other country – the US not exempted – there is no perfect guaranty for the future in terms of rising to a dangerous level of militancy, but, like the US, there are powerful checks within society to stop a future Tojo.

Pretty much this. Who are these countries that are afraid of a ‘return of Japanese militarism’? None of them. China isn’t afraid of Japans military…they are using it as a propaganda tool to rile up the masses against Japan and to justify their aggression in the East China Sea disputes with Japan. South Korea? No, they aren’t afraid of Japan…they, like many other regional nations are pissed at Japan for a lot of the reasons enumerated above concerning Japans actions in WWII an a lot of their post war actions wrt apologies and the like. I’d say that the country with the most fear about a ‘return of Japanese to militarism’ is…Japan. There are fairly broad feelings in Japan from what I understand against such things, and even a whiff of what they consider to be ‘militarism’ is criticized harshly. There is a lot of unresolved baggage in Japan from that war that I think they need to deal with and get over. But with China pushing them it’s something they need to deal with fairly soon.

Not directly related to the topic at hand, perhaps, but I was disheartened to hear about the firing of several Japanese news anchors recently.

Guardian: Japanese TV anchors lose their jobs amid claims of political pressure

Undoubtedly, there’s a strong anti-war sentiment running throughout the population. However, it’s also a remarkably apolitical society. Newspeople getting fired for political reasons happens all over the world, but I’m a bit alarmed by the lack of attention this sort of thing gets. Sure, if the government announced military action tomorrow there would be crowds in the street protesting, but a slow incremental shift over years is not as impossible as we would like to believe.