Graduate Student Forum

Quiet Acquisition: The Politics of Justification in Japan’s Military Capability Trajectory

Tuesday, 12 January 2021 | 12:15 - 13:00 (JST)
Zoom Webinar
  • Deirdre Martin The University of California, Berkeley
  • Rieko Kage Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo

What explains variation in acquisition strategies advanced industrialized states adopt when attempting to develop their security capacity? States’ defense programs vary widely; patterns of acquisition often vary and rarely exclusively reflect pressing security threats. Furthermore, most developed industrial democracies face significant political and budgetary constraints when attempting to build up their defense capabilities; while they are usually able to develop anything they want, they are unlikely to be able to develop everything that they want. States’ security policy development patterns, therefore, represent the result of strategic choices, have important implications for states’ international interactions and relationships, and provide clues regarding domestic priorities, constraints, and intent.

Her dissertation addresses these strategic choices, asking why and under what conditions states like Japan with reliable security assurances from the United States sometimes purchase high-tech military capabilities from allies, sometimes eschew purchase in favor of domestic development, and sometimes pursue other strategies. In contrast with traditional explanations which tend to focus on either state actors motivated by security concerns or business actors seeking entry into profitable markets, she argues that Japanese acquisition decisions are the result of domestic political balancing between state and business actors. When these interests are aligned, acquisition trends tend to be relatively stable over time; however, some strategies, particularly development under license, indicate initially mismatched interests. Decision-makers are aware of and concerned about perceptions of indigenous development and will choose to postpone indigenization until capabilities become “justifiable” to the general public, either through changes in public understanding of the technology or through the introduction of a clear strategic threat. She tests these claims through close examination of Japanese acquisition of intelligence-gathering satellites, Patriot missile defense, radar technologies for Aegis Ashore, and maritime patrol aircraft.