Japanese Naval Power

Alessio Patalano*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The chapter develops for the first time in the Japanese context a framework to comprehend the role of naval power as a tool of statecraft and why it matters to Japan’s foreign and security policy. The chapter employs a strategic studies methodology to overcome the explanatory limits of mainstream perspectives narrowly focused on debating the nature of Japanese military power from a normative perspective. In so doing, it aims to make three distinctive contributions. First, the chapter argues that Japan’s military posture is not the result of a constrained legal framework. As a liberal democracy with an export-oriented economy, the shape of Japanese military power is consistent with the model of a “seapower state.” Second, the chapter argues that the most significant changes in Japanese naval power do not concern the expansion of capabilities or renewed commitment to the US-Japan alliance. They concerned the empowerment of Japanese foreign policy with the option to actively “shape” international stability. Third, the chapter explores how Prime Minister Abe’s impact on the use of naval power has not negated constitutional constraints. Rather, he focused naval power’s shaping potential to underpin and reinforce his signature Free and Open Indo-Pacific initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Japanese Politics
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780190050993
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Defense diplomacy
  • Free and open indo-pacific vision
  • Maritime strategy
  • Seapower state
  • Shaping posture


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