Asymmetric Threats and Changes in Japan’s Security Strategies, 2001-2021

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, Department of Regional Studies, Faculty of Law & Political Science, University of Tehran, Iran

2 PhD in International Relations, Faculty of Humanities, University of Tarbiat Modares, Tehran, Iran


Although most of Japan's security threats are traditional and come from close neighbors (i.e., China and North Korea), the post-Cold War structural changes in the international system created new national security threats for Japan. These changes led to the transformation of the security environment and the  nature of the threats, which were completely incompatible with the security structure imposed on Japan after World War II, particularly the prohibition of the use of armed forces in maintaining security, and its security dependence on the United States. The main objective of the present study is to find answers to the following two research questions: 1. How has the new security threats changed Japan's defense and security structure? 2. What had been Japan's response to these new threats? Due to the complexity of the issue, and the descriptive-analytical approach used by the authors, the method of research is conceptual analysis of the selected Japan’s official documents. The theoretical framework is the Copenhagen School of security studies, which together with its propositions are utilized in several contexts to analyze Japan’s security developments. First, contrary to the realist approach that emphasizes the role of states as major actors in international politics, the Copenhagen approach recognizes the importance of the non-state entities. This proposition allowed the authors to evaluate the activities of terrorist groups and pirates as sources of security threat. Second, the Copenhagen School’s attention to social processes, as well as the intersubjectivity of security and threat provided the opportunity for authors to explain the threats not only from the perspective of politicians and government elites but also from the different perspectives of the people’s views on security issues affecting them. Third, military factors in international relations (e.g., the intensified competition between regional and international powers in Asia-Pacific) were not considered as the as central, focus. Rather, adopting a multidimensional and comprehensive perspective, the authors examined the non-traditional dimensions of security such as terrorism, cyber threats, piracy, environmental issues, and the failed governments. All of these non-conventional threats had common characteristics such as being high-impact, extraterritorial, large-scale, high-speed. Furthermore, effective non-military measures are needed to counter and overcome them.
In response to the first question, the authors argue that threats that directly endanger Japan's national security had the greatest impact on Japan's security policy changes. These threats are as follows: a) piracy that directly threaten the maritime security, freedom of navigation, energy security, and trade lines of the country; b) cyber security threats that directly endanger both the government and Japanese society; c) ultimately, the consequences of environmental issues such as the increased likelihood of conflicts over joint management of natural resources, economic displacement, migration and asylum, and border conflicts which directly threaten Japan's territorial integrity and its environment. The threats of piracy, cyber-attacks, and environmental issues had a greater impact on the reorientation of Japanese security strategy than the threats of the failed governments and terrorism.
In response to the second question concerning the reasons for the use of military instruments, five points should be considered: 1. The need to deal decisively with new security threats and economic problems; 2. The ineffectiveness of Japan's existing policies of focusing on the use of non-military tools to avert and respond to threats; 3. The need to acquire a appropriate level of military power to have the ability to quickly and unrestrictedly respond to security threats; 4. Global expectations from Japan for its greater military participation because of its high economic and technological capability; 5. The U.S.-Japan strategic alliance, and Washington's demand for burden-sharing through Tokyo’s military involvement. These points explain why a fundamental change in the nature of Japan's national security strategies has taken placed.


  1. الف) فارسی

    1. آشوری، محمد. (1388)آیین دادرسی کیفری. تهران: سمت.
    2. ایوبی، حجت‌الله. (1396) سیاست و حکومت در فرانسه. تهران: انتشارات دانشگاه تهران.
    3. ترنز، برایان. (1395) ماکس وبر و اسلام، ترجمه سعید وصالی. تهران: مرکز.
    4. داوید، رنه. (1395) نظامهای بزرگ حقوقی معاصر، ترجمه حسین صفایی، محمد آشوری و عزت‌الله عراقی. تهران: مرکز نشر دانشگاهی.
    5. دروودی، مسعود؛ فاطمه صلواتی (1393، بهمن) «نظریه پسااستعمارگرایی و روابط بین‌الملل انتقادی،» پژوهش‌نامه ایرانی سیاست بین‌الملل 3، 1: 26-43،  .<DOI:10.22067/JIPR.V3I15.38622>
    6. سعید، ادوارد. (1382) فرهنگ و امپریالیسم، ترجمه اکبر افسری. تهران: توس.
    7. سن، آمارتیا کوماریم. (1382) توسعه بهمثابه آزادی، ترجمه وحید محمودی. تهران: انتشارات دانشگاه تهران.
    8. سیف‌زاده، سیدحسین. (1384) مدرنیته و نظریههای جدید علم سیاست. تهران: میزان.
    9. عزتی، عزت‌الله. (1394) ژئوپلیتیک. تهران: سمت.
    1. کچویان، حسین. (1385)نظریههای جهانی‌شدن و دین؛ مطالعهای انتقادی. تهران: نی.
    2. کوبان، آلفرد. (1393) تاریخ معاصر فرانسه، ترجمه عباسقلی غفاری‌فرد. تهران: مؤسسه اطلاعات، ج 2 و 3.
    3. لوئیس، برنارد. (1381) خاورمیانه؛ دو هزار سال تاریخ از ظهور مسیحیت تا امروز، ترجمه حسن کامشاد. تهران: نی.
    4. هراری، یووال نوح. (1396) انسان خردمند، ترجمه نیک گرگین. تهران: نو. 

    ب) انگلیسی

    1. Bourel, Guillaume. )2016( Chronologie de l'histoire de France.Paris :
    2. Dubois, Claude-Gilbert. )2011( “Introduction,” Dand L’Orient Islamique Face a L’Occident. Histoire D’Une Coexistence Tumultueuse, 9-20. Pu Bordeaux; Pu de Bordeaux edition, <DOI:10.1163/15700658-12342423 >.
    3. Durant, Will, and Ariel Durant. )1975(The Story of Civilization: Part XI; The Age of Napoleon. New York: Simon and Schuster, V. 11.
    4. Eberhard, David M.; Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig, eds. (2020) Ethnologue: Languages of the World.Dallas, Texas: SIL International, 23rd ed. Available at: (Accessed 5 February 2020).
    5. Economist Intelligence Unit. (2019) Democracy Index 2018. London: The Economist. Available at: (Accessed 14 August 2020).
    1. Giblin, Béatrice. )2007( "Le Tourisme: Un Theatre Geopolitique?" Hérodote 127, 4 : 3-14, <DOI:10.3917/her.127.0003>.
    2. Gouvernement, Secrétariat Général du. (2016, Décembre 8)"Constitution de la Republique Algerienne Democratique et Poplaire," Journal Officiel Available at: (Accessed 22 Fberuary 2020).
    3. Hoerner, Jean-Michel. )2007( "Le Tourisme et la Geopolitique," Hérodote 127, 4 : 15-28, .
    4. Hubert, Michel. )1966( "Les Institutions Politiques de la Republique Algerienne," Revue de l'Occident musulman et de la Méditerranée 135-159, .
    5. Huntington, Samuel P. )1993( "The Clash of Civilization?" Journal of Foreign Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations) 72: 22-49, <DOI:10.2307/20045621>.
      1. Internet World Stats. (2021) "Internet Penetration in Africa, 2020-Q1- March," com (Miniwatts Marketing Group). Available at: (Accessed 3 July 2021).
    6. Nadoulek, Bernard. (2005) L'Epopee des Civilisations. Paris: Eyrolles.
    7. Organization Internationale de la Francophonie. (2005, November 23) "Francophonie, Charte de la," org. Available at: antananarivo_2005.pdf(Accessed 9 June 2020).
    8. Organization Internationale de la Francophonie. (2020)"88 Etats et gouvernements: L'OIF compte 54 membres, 7 membres associés et 27 observateurs," org. Available at: (Accessed 9 June 2020).
    9. Sehimi, Mustapha. (1990) De Gaulle et le Maroc. Paris: Edition Publisude.
    10. Semo, Marc. (2014, December 26) "La carte d’un tourisme à risques (the Tourism Risk Map)," Libération. Available at: planete/2014/12/26/la-carte-d-un-tourisme-a-risques_1170505 (Accessed 27 August 2020). [in French].