Japan's response to the 'war on terror', in the form of the despatch of the JSDF to the Indian Ocean and Iraq, has given policy-makers and academic analysts grounds for believing that Japan is becoming a more assertive military power in support of its US ally. This article argues that JSDF despatch does not necessarily mark a divergence from Japan's previous security path over the short term. This is because its policy-makers have continued to hedge around commitments to the US through careful constitutional framing of JSDF missions and capabilities, allowing it opt-out clauses in future conflicts, and because it has also sought to pursue economic and alternative diplomatic policies in responding to terrorism and WMD proliferation in the Middle East. However, at the same this article argues that Japan has established important precedents for expanded JSDF missions in the 'war on terror', and that over the medium to longer terms these are likely to be applied to the bilateral context of the US-Japan security treaty in East Asia, and to push Japan towards becoming a more active military power through participation in US-led multinational 'coalitions of the willing' in East Asia and globally
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