Global Strategic Implications of an Ageing Japan
July 22, 2009 | By Kim Walker
As Japan ages, budget priorities will shift. This is an insightful article from the Wall Street Journal about the impact of an ageing Japan on strategic relationships. Some of the key issues:
- Health care, currently underfunded, will become a considerable drain on the government purse.
- Defense spending — always a tough sell in Japan — will feel a tighter pinch
- Recruitment for the Self Defense Forces, already difficult, will get harder
- Official development assistance and the investment capital that lubricated foreign relations will shrink. This will diminish Japan’s status in the region as other countries replace Japanese funds.
- The demographic transition will make it difficult, if not impossible, for other regional powers to demonize Japan as in the past
- Will Beijing muscle Tokyo aside and assume the leading role in Asia?
- Seoul could give vent to its long-suppressed anger over Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula and its junior status in the region. Or the South Korean government could reach out to a country with similar interests, values and concerns to forge a forward-looking partnership of like-minded nations.
The article argues that no relationship will be more affected by the demographic change that that of the U.S. and Japan.
The new Japanese mindset poses a direct challenge to the evolution of the U.S.-Japan security alliance over the last decade. Tokyo is likely to try to move even closer to the U.S. in response to its straitened economic circumstances and a fear that it is being eclipsed by a dynamic, rising China.
The author proposes three imperatives that the US should follow in view of Japan’s changing role. Well worth a read,