Yusaku Horiuchi on the Crisis in Ukraine

Like many others, I strongly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its terrifying consequences. Our thoughts are with those who suffer from this war.

There is a growing concern about a similar crisis in East Asia. A very recent poll fielded on February 25-27 by Nikkei, one of the major Japanese newspapers, shows that 77% of Japanese citizens worry about China's use of force against Taiwan. As a scholar of Japanese politics, I cannot feel that the crisis in Ukraine is a fire on the opposite bank.

Japan is one of the most important allies for the U.S. in East Asia, and extensive U.S. military facilities are in Okinawa Prefecture. And Taiwan is only 70 miles away from one of the islands in Okinawa. When a crisis in East Asia happens, will --- and can --- the Japanese government work closely with the U.S. government? Despite the heightened concerns and the geographical proximity, it is unclear how effectively the severe militarized conflicts can be avoided and minimized. 

For example, it is unclear whether Japanese citizens will support militarized actions given the U.S-Japan security alliance. While favorable attitudes toward Japan's self-defense force (SDF) are growing in recent decades in part due to their visible contributions in response to natural disasters and pandemics, attitudes toward the U.S. military are aggravating. Furthermore, there is a common belief that Japanese citizens are highly sensitive to casualties of the SDF personnel and thus are reluctant to dispatch SDF overseas. 

It is becoming more critical than ever for the Japanese government to understand public opinion based on objective and scientifically valid data and consider strategies to mobilize public support when necessary.

February 28th