Revisionist challenges to pacifist state?: Attempts to change Japan's foreign policy identity during Abe Shinzo's premiership



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Japan’s foreign policy identity and security posture have been mostly discussed with either material or ideational factors. However, this ‘either/or’ rationale does not explain the contradiction of Japan being a pacifist state while having leaders with revisionist ambitions, especially after the end of the Cold War. Focusing on Abe’s security policy, chiefly the controversial adoption of the limited right to Collective Self-Defense (CSD), publicly introduced in 2014 and enacted in 2015, this study aims to comprehend the dialectic relation between material and ideational factors in Japan’s foreign policy identity. While Abe has been regarded as a revisionist challenger to Japan’s pacifism, how was the security policy reasoned for its successful adoption, despite the society’s support of the pacifist norm? To answer this, critical discourse analysis, a method that enables context-sensitive research while focusing on agency or power relations, has been conducted. The analysis has found that Abe’s discourse has created a momentum of ‘change’ by introducing a new common sense of ‘active posture for achieving peace.’ Abe reasoned the adoption of the CSD, undoubtedly a revisionist change in the means, as a minimum necessary extension for achieving the conventional purpose of the pacifist norm - enhancing deterrence and avoiding Japan’s war engagement. Thus, Abe’s security policy is a revisionist change within the framework of pacifism. Significantly, the study shows that the material interest of revisionism - proactive redistribution of resources - and the ideational interest of pacifism - upholding the pacifist norm - are both crucial in Japan’s foreign policy identity.