Last week I examined the logic and consequences of the "Abe Doctrine," whereby Japan has beefed up its alliance with the United States by agreeing to expand what it is prepared to do militarily in support of U.S. global security operations. This is not a settled issue domestically as few Japanese support this dramatic departure from the pacifism and minimalism embodied in the "Yoshida Doctrine" that has served as the touchstone of Japanese security policy since the 1950s.

Then-Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida fended off Washington's demands that Japan shoulder a greater defense burden by invoking Article 9 of the Constitution and prioritizing economic recovery. A commitment to pacifism and a defense-only security policy saw Japan through the end of the Cold War and into the 21st century, but the strategic landscape has quickly changed with the rise of China.

In 1997, the year the initial Japan-U.S. Defense Guidelines were issued, China spent $10 billion on defense. In 2014 it rose to an estimated $144 billion, funding a rapid modernization of China's armed forces that is slowly narrowing the military gap with the Japan-U.S. alliance. This surge coincides with China's increased assertiveness about its territorial and maritime claims, which puts it at loggerheads with much of the rest of Asia.