从名义上说，日本是和个平主义国家。根据人道视野组织（Vision of Humanity）编制的全球和平指数（Global Peace Index），日本在世界最和平国家中排名第6。根据日本宪法规定，拥有传统意义上的常备军是不合法的。但最新发布的国防白皮书显示，日本已经到了拥有世界上装备最精良的“隐形”军队之一的程度。
但日本自卫队的装备精良程度在世界排名第六，还在去年获得了近600亿美元国防预算，绝不是由一般的防卫警察组成。“至今，日本仍享受着孤立主义者的身份，”日本前防卫顾问、现任政策研究大学院大学（National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies）安全和国际项目主任的道下德成说。“这非常便利，我们不需要卷进任何冲突。但现在美国想让日本扮演更加主动的角色。”
作为美国的同盟国，日本的现役军队规模比英国还大。一旦习近平拒绝顺从奥巴马，日本也会比英国更有准备地投入作战，这一点让美国很满意。“日本真的极其关键，既充当着美国的战略前哨，又是它的客户，而且还是美国利益的战略行动国，”奥克兰大学（University of Auckland）亚太国际关系讲师和日本军事技术专家科里•华莱士说。
一个适当再武装的日本可能也会帮助它跳出目前的经济大坑。去年日本松动了自行规定的武器出口禁令。这项和平外交政策的终止为它的国防承包商开辟了新的市场，给三菱重工（Mitsubishi Heavy Industries）和石川岛播磨重工（Ishikawajima-Harima）这些苦苦挣扎中的军用技术巨头公司带来了大好消息。据说，几十年来它们都不得不依赖在费用上做手脚或收过高的费用来维持。出口会成为这些公司新的生命线。
On paper, Japan is a pacifist nation. It ranks 6th on the Global Peace Index, a list tabulated by peace activists at Vision of Humanity. Japan's constitution makes illegal a traditional standing army. But a recently published defense white paper shows the extent to which the country has one of the most well-equipped "invisible" armies in the world.
Japan's armed forces are euphemistically dubbed the "Self Defense Force" (SDF) -- officially it's an extension of the police.
But with the world's 6th best-equipped troops and a nearly $60 billion defense budget last year, the SDF is not composed of your average beat cops. "Japan enjoyed an isolationist status until now," says Narushige Michishita, a past adviser to Tokyo on defense and now director of the security and international program at Tokyo's National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. "It was very convenient; we didn't have to get involved in conflicts. But now the U.S. wants Japan to be more proactive," he says.
Japan's ruling party, the LDP, acknowledge this. "They know we have to be commensurate with our stature as an economic superpower," he adds. "The U.S. is asking us to be more proactive in, not rearming, but making use of those arms."
Now that the LDP's conservatives are returned to power, including their hawkish prime minister Shinzo Abe, they are demanding a change in the pacifist constitution which would chime in nicely with the U.S.'s desires in the region. Not that Japan is truly pacifist, or ever has been -- not with one of the best-trained forces in the word says Michishita. "We are not passive in that sense. We supported all the U.S. wars, contributing $30 billion to the Gulf war. Japan isn't remilitarizing -- we are already there."
What the U.S. and the new rulers in Tokyo want is a Japan willing to fight as part of a pivot away from Europe toward Asia, by which they mean China.
Prime minister Abe will have little trouble with such a containment policy, promising a "stronger" Japan in the face of "harassment" from China over a territorial dispute near Chinese waters. He also wants Japan's military to be able to fight alongside its allies. Something the current constitution, written by the US after WWII, prohibits.
The U.S.'s posture rebalancing, or "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region, was flagged up by President Obama's extraordinarily lengthy tete-a-tete with the Chinese premiere recently. Behind the smiles are deep anxieties over China's rising economic and military strength that challenge U.S. power in the Pacific. Obama had also personally urged Xi Jinping to "de-escalate, not escalate" tensions over territorial disputes with Japan.
The U.S. is content to have Japan, with an active military larger than the U.K.'s, prepared more readily to fight in its corner should Xi not heed the President. "Japan is truly essential, as both a strategic outpost for the U.S. military and customer for the U.S., as well as a strategic actor in its own right," says Corey Wallace, lecturer at the University of Auckland on Asia-Pacific international relations and a Japanese military technology expert.
A properly remilitarized Japan might also help the nation out of its current economic hole. Japan last year eased its self-imposed ban on arms exports. This end of pacifist foreign policy opens up new markets for its defense contractors -- good news for struggling military tech sector giants such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Ishikawajima-Harima. For decades they had allegedly relied on billpadding and overcharging. Exports could be a new lifeline..