Temporal othering, de-securitisation and apologies: understanding Japanese security policy change

  • Karl GustafssonEmail author
Original Article


For several decades, Japan kept in place significant self-imposed constraints on its security policy even as its economy grew tremendously. While it has been argued that Japan refrained from enacting security policy change because of strong domestic pacifist or anti-militarist sentiments, recently, radical policy changes have nonetheless taken place. How can these changes be understood? The existing explanations typically see them as a response to objectively existing or constructed external threats. Such threat constructions might have contributed to the policy changes, but do not fully account for how the conditions that previously limited similar changes have altered. This article combines temporal othering and de-securitisation theory to account more fully for the policy changes. It shows that during the post-war period, Japan’s temporal other, that is its wartime self, was securitised within Japan, limiting changes in security policy. More recently, however, a de-securitisation of the Japanese temporal other has taken place, which has enabled more far-reaching policy change. Apologies have played a key role in this de-securitisation process by repeating and strengthening an identity narrative about how fundamentally different Japan has become from its past wartime self.


Apology De-securitisation Japan Re-articulation Security Temporal othering 



  1. Abe, Shinzō. 2015. Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  2. Al, Serhun, and Douglas Byrd. 2018. When Do States (De)securitise Minority Identities? Conflict and Change in Turkey and Northern Ireland. Journal of International Relations and Development 21 (3): 608–634.Google Scholar
  3. Aradau, Claudia. 2004. Security and the Democratic Scene: Desecuritization and Emancipation’. Journal of International Relations and Development 7 (4): 388–413.Google Scholar
  4. Auslin, Michael. 2016. Japan’s New Realism: Abe gets Tough. Foreign Affairs 95 (2): 125–134.Google Scholar
  5. Åtland, Kristian. 2008. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Murmansk Initiative, and the De-securitization of Interstate Relations in the Arctic. Cooperation and Conflict 43 (3): 289–311.Google Scholar
  6. Balzacq, Thierry. 2005. The Three Faces of Securitization: Political Agency, Audience and Context. European Journal of International Relations 11 (2): 171–201.Google Scholar
  7. Barkan, Elazar. 2000. The Guilt of Nations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Behnke, Andreas. 2006. No Way Out: Desecuritzation, Emancipation and the Eternal Return to the Political—A Reply to Aradau. Journal of International Relations and Development 9 (1): 62–69.Google Scholar
  9. Berenskoetter, Felix. 2014. Parameters of a National Biography. European Journal of International Relations 20 (1): 262–288.Google Scholar
  10. Berger, Thomas U. 1998. Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japan. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Berkovsky, Axel. 2012. A Pacifist Constitution for an Armed Empire: Past and present of Japanese Security and Defence Policies. Milan: Franco Angeli.Google Scholar
  12. Bourbeau, Philippe, and Juha A. Vuori. 2015. Security, Resilience and Desecuritization: Multidirectional Moves and Dynamics. Critical Studies on Security 3 (3): 253–268.Google Scholar
  13. Bukh, Alexander. 2015. Shimane Prefecture, Tokyo and the Territorial Dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima: Regional and National Identities in Japan. Pacific Review 28 (1): 47–70.Google Scholar
  14. Buzan, Barry, Ole Waever, and Jaap de Wilde. 1998. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.Google Scholar
  15. Cabinet Office of the Japanese Government. 1947. The Constitution of Japan. Accessed 31 May 2017.
  16. Cabinet Office of the Japanese Government. 2015. Jieitai Bōei Mondai ni Kansuru Yoron Chōsa (Public opinion poll regarding the Self-Defense Forces and defense issues). Accessed 30 Apr 2017.
  17. Campbell, David. 1998. Writing Security: United States Foreign Policy and the Politics of Identity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Coskun, Bezen. 2008. Analyzing De-securitizations: Prospects and Problems for Israeli-Palestinian Reconciliation. Global Change, Peace & Security 20 (3): 393–408.Google Scholar
  19. de Wilde, Jaap H. 2008. Environmental Security Deconstructed’, In Globalization and Environmental Challenges: Reconceptualizing Security in the 21st Century, eds. Hans Günter Brausch, Úrsula Oswald Spring, Czeslaw Mesjasz, JohnGrin, Pál Dunay, Navnita Chadha Behera, Béchir Chorou, Patricia Kameri-Mbote and P.H. Liotta, 595–602, Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Diez, Thomas. 2004. Europe’s Others and the Return of Geopolitics. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17 (2): 319–335.Google Scholar
  21. Donnelly, Faye. 2015. The Queen’s Speech: Desecuritizing the Past, Present and Future of Anglo-Irish Relations. European Journal of International Relations 21 (4): 911–934.Google Scholar
  22. Easley, Leif-Eric. 2017. How Proactive? How Pacifist? Charting Japan’s Evolving Defence Posture. Australian Journal of International Affairs 71 (1): 63–87.Google Scholar
  23. Elliott, Cathy. 2017. Democracy Promotion as Foreign Policy: Temporal Othering in International Relations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Freedman, Joshua. 2016. Status Insecurity and Temporality in World Politics. European Journal of International Relations 22 (4): 797–822.Google Scholar
  25. Green, Michael J. 2001. Japan’s Reluctant Realism: Foreign Policy Challenges in an Era of Uncertain Power. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  26. Green, Michael J. 2013. Japan Is Back: Unbundling Abe’s Grand Strategy. Lowy Institute Analysis, 17 December, 1–22. Accessed 27 July 2018.
  27. Grønning, Bjørn E.M. 2014. Japan’s Shifting Security Priorities: Counterbalancing China’s Rise. Asian Security 10 (1): 1–21.Google Scholar
  28. Guillaume, Xavier. 2011. International Relations and Identity: A Dialogical Approach. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Gustafsson, Karl. 2014. Memory Politics and Ontological Security in Sino-Japanese Relations. Asian Studies Review 38 (1): 71–86.Google Scholar
  30. Gustafsson, Karl. 2015. Identity and Recognition: Remembering and Forgetting the Post-war in Sino-Japanese Relations. Pacific Review 28 (1): 117–138.Google Scholar
  31. Gustafsson, Karl. 2016. Routinised Recognition and Anxiety: Understanding the Deterioration in Sino-Japanese Relations. Review of International Studies 42 (4): 613–633.Google Scholar
  32. Gustafsson, Karl, Linus Hagström, and Ulv Hanssen. 2018. Japan’s Pacifism is Dead. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 60 (6): 137–158.Google Scholar
  33. Hagström, Linus, and Karl Gustafsson. 2015. Japan and Identity Change: Why it Matters in International Relations. Pacific Review 28 (1): 1–22.Google Scholar
  34. Hagström, Linus, and Ulv Hanssen. 2015. The North Korean Abduction Issue: Emotions, Securitization and the Reconstruction of Japanese Identity from “Aggressor” to “Victim” and from “Pacifist” to “Normal”. Pacific Review 28 (1): 71–93.Google Scholar
  35. Hagström, Linus, and Ulv Hanssen. 2016. War is Peace: The Rearticulation of “Peace” in Japan’s China Discourse. Review of International Studies 42 (2): 266–286.Google Scholar
  36. Hansen, Lene. 2006. Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Hansen, Lene. 2012. Reconstructing Desecuritisation: The Normative-political in the Copenhagen School and Direction for How to Apply It. Review of International Studies 38 (3): 525–546.Google Scholar
  38. Hanssen, Ulv. 2017. Japan’s Temporal Others: How the Past Has Shaped Japanese Postwar Security Policy, Doctoral Dissertation, Berlin: Freie Universität.Google Scholar
  39. Hom, Andrew R. 2016. Angst Springs Eternal: Dangerous Times and the Dangers of Timing the “Arab Spring”. Security Dialogue 47 (2): 165–183.Google Scholar
  40. Hornung, Jeffrey W. 2014. Japan’s Growing Hard Hedge against China. Asian Security 10 (2): 97–122.Google Scholar
  41. Hornung, Jeffrey W., and Mike M. Mochizuki. 2016. Japan: Still an Exceptional US ally. Washington Quarterly 39 (1): 95–116.Google Scholar
  42. Hosoya, Yūichi. 2015. Historical Memories and Security Legislation: Japan’s Security Legislation under the Abe Administration. Asia-Pacific Review 22 (2): 44–52.Google Scholar
  43. Hughes, Christopher W. 2004. Japan’s Re-emergence as a ‘Normal’ Military Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Hughes, Christopher W. 2015. Japan’s Foreign and Security Policy Under the ‘Abe Doctrine’: New Dynamism or Dead End?. New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  45. Hughes, Christopher W. 2016. Japan’s “Resentful Realism” and Balancing China’s Rise. Chinese Journal of International Politics 9 (2): 109–150.Google Scholar
  46. Hughes, Christopher W. 2017. Japan’s Strategic Trajectory and Collective Self-Defense: Essential Continuity or Radical Shift? Journal of Japanese Studies 43 (1): 93–126.Google Scholar
  47. Huysmans, Jef. 1995. Migrants as a Security Problem: Dangers of “Securitizing” Societal Issues. In Migration and European Integration: Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion, ed. Robert Miles and Dietrich Thranhardt, 53–72. London: Pinter.Google Scholar
  48. Huysmans, Jef. 1998. The Question of the Limit: Desecuritisation and the Aesthetics of Horror in Political Realism. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 27 (3): 569–589.Google Scholar
  49. Inayatulla, Naeem, and David L. Blaney. 2004. International Relations and the Problem of Difference. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. Izumikawa, Yasuhiro. 2010. Explaining Japanese Antimilitarism: Normative and Realist Constraints on Japan’s Security Policy. International Security 35 (2): 123–160.Google Scholar
  51. Joenniemi, Pertti. 2008. Re-negotiating Europe’s Identity: The European Neighbourhood Policy as a Form of Differentiation. Journal of Borderland Studies 23 (3): 83–94.Google Scholar
  52. Johnson, Chalmers. 1986. Reflections on the Dilemma of Japanese Defense. Asian Survey 26 (5): 557–572.Google Scholar
  53. Jutila, Matti. 2006. Desecuritizing Minority Rights: Against Determinism. Security Dialogue 37 (2): 167–185.Google Scholar
  54. Katzenstein, Peter J. 1996. Cultural Norms and National Security: Police and Military in Postwar Japan. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Katzenstein, Peter J., and Nobuo Okawara. 1993. Japan’s National Security: Structures, Norms, and Policies. International Security 17 (4): 84–118.Google Scholar
  56. Keohane, Robert O., and Joseph S. Nye. 1997. Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition. Boston: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
  57. Kim, Mikyoung. 2008. Myths, Milieu, and Facts: History Textbook Controversies. In East Asia’s Haunted Present: Historical Memories and the Resurgence of Nationalism, ed. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and Kazuhiko Togo, 94–118. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International.Google Scholar
  58. Kim, Ji Young. 2015. Dismantling the Final Barrier: Transforming Japan into a “Normal Country” in the Post-Cold-War Era. Pacific Focus 30 (2): 223–248.Google Scholar
  59. Koizumi, Junichiro. 2005. Speech by H.E. Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  60. Koo, Min Gyo. 2009. The Senkaku/Diaoyu Dispute and Sino-Japanese Political-Economic Relations: Cold Politics or Hot Economics? Pacific Review 22 (2): 205–232.Google Scholar
  61. Liff, Adam P. 2015. Japan’s Defense Policy: Abe the Evolutionary. Washington Quarterly 38 (2): 79–99.Google Scholar
  62. Lind, Jennifer M. 2004. Pacifism or Passing the Buck? Testing Theories of Japanese Security Policy. International Security 29 (1): 92–121.Google Scholar
  63. Lupovici, Amir. 2014. The Limits of Securitization Theory: Observational Criticism and the Curious Absence of Israel. International Studies Review 16 (3): 390–410.Google Scholar
  64. Lupovici, Amir. 2016. Securitization Climax: Putting the Iranian Nuclear Project at the Top of the Israeli Public Agenda (2009–2012). Foreign Policy Analysis 12 (3): 413–432.Google Scholar
  65. Löwenheim, Nava. 2009. A Haunted Past: Requesting Forgiveness for Wrongdoing in International Relations. Review of International Studies 35 (3): 531–555.Google Scholar
  66. Mälksoo, Maria. 2014. Criminalizing Communism: Transnational Mnemopolitics in Europe. International Political Sociology 8 (1): 82–99.Google Scholar
  67. Mälksoo, Maria. 2015. “Memory Must be Defended”: Beyond the Politics of Mnemonical Security. Security Dialogue 46 (3): 221–237.Google Scholar
  68. Mansfield Foundation. 2016. Dong-A Ilbo Opinion Poll: Special research on Japanese Attitudes toward China and Other Nations. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  69. Maslow, Sebastian. 2015. A Blueprint for a Strong Japan? Abe Shinzō and Japan’s Evolving Security System. Asian Survey 55 (4): 739–765.Google Scholar
  70. Maull, Hanns W. 1990. Germany and Japan: The New Civilian Powers. Foreign Affairs 69 (5): 91–106.Google Scholar
  71. McDonald, Matt. 2008. Securitization and the Construction of Security. European Journal of International Relations 14 (4): 563–587.Google Scholar
  72. Midford, Paul. 2011. Rethinking Japanese Public Opinion and Security: From Pacifism to Realism?. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 2005. 60 Years: The Path of a Nation Striving for Global Peace. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  74. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 2014. Japan’s Security Policy: Cabinet Decision on Development of Seamless Security Legislation to Ensure Japan’s Survival and Protect its People. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  75. Murayama, Tomiichi. 1995. On the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the War’s End. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  76. Nordin, Astrid H.M. 2016. China’s International Relations and Harmonious World: Time, Space and Multiplicity in World Politics, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  77. Oros, Andrew L. 2008. Normalizing Japan: Politics, Security, and the Evolution of Security Practice. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Oros, Andrew L. 2015. International and Domestic Challenges to Japan’s Postwar Security Identity: “Norm Constructivism” and Japan’s new “Proactive Pacifism”. Pacific Review 28 (1): 139–160.Google Scholar
  79. Oros, Andrew L. 2017. Japan’s Security Renaissance: New Policies and Politics for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Prozorov, Sergei. 2011. The Other as Past and Present: Beyond the Logic of “Temporal Othering” in IR Theory. Review of International Studies 37 (3): 1273–1293.Google Scholar
  81. Pugliese, Giulio, and Aurelio Insisa. 2017. Sino-Japanese Power Politics: Might. Money and Minds, London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  82. Pyle, Kenneth B. 1987. In Pursuit of a Grand Design: Nakasone Betwixt the Past and the Future. Journal of Japanese Studies 13 (2): 243–270.Google Scholar
  83. Roe, Paul. 2004. Securitization and Minority Rights: Conditions of Securitization. Security Dialogue 35 (3): 279–294.Google Scholar
  84. Roe, Paul. 2008. Actors, Audience(s) and Emergency Measures: Securitization and the UK’s Decision to Invade Iraq. Security Dialogue 39 (6): 615–635.Google Scholar
  85. Reuters. 2017. Japan PM Abe Says no Defense Budget Ceiling as 1 Percent to GDP. Accessed 9 Nov 2017.
  86. Rosecrance, Richard N. 1987. The Rise of the Trading State: Commerce and Conquest in the Modern World. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  87. Ross, Robert S. 2010. Balance of Power Politics and the Rise of China: Accommodation and Balancing in East Asia. Security Studies 13 (3): 387–389.Google Scholar
  88. Rumelili, Bahar. 2004. Constructing Identity and Relating to Difference: Understanding the EU’s Mode of Differentiation. Review of International Studies 30 (1): 27–47.Google Scholar
  89. Rumelili, Bahar. 2015. Identity and Desecuritisation: The Pitfalls of Conflating Ontological and Physical Security. Journal of International Relations and Development 18 (1): 52–74.Google Scholar
  90. Salter, Mark B. 2008. Securitization and Desecuritization: A Dramaturgical Analysis of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. Journal of International Relations and Development 11 (4): 321–349.Google Scholar
  91. Saltzman, Ilai S. 2015. Growing Pains: Neoclassical Realism and Japan’s Security Policy Emancipation. Contemporary Security Policy 36 (3): 498–527.Google Scholar
  92. Samuels, Richard J. 2007. Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  93. Singh, Bhubhindar. 2013. Japan’s Security Identity: From a Peace State to an International State. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  94. Snetkov, Aglaya. 2017. Theories, Methods and Practices: A Longitudinal Analysis of the (De)securitization of the Insurgency Threat in Russia. Security Dialogue 48 (3): 259–275.Google Scholar
  95. Stokes, Bruce. 2016. Hostile Neighbours: China vs. Japan. Accessed 10 Nov 2017.
  96. Stritzel, Holger, and Sean C. Chang. 2015. Securitization and Counter-Securitization in Afghanistan. Security Dialogue 46 (6): 548–567.Google Scholar
  97. Suzuki, Shogo. 2015. The Rise of the Chinese “Other” in Japan’s Construction of Identity: Is China a Focal Point of Japanese Nationalism? Pacific Review 28 (1): 95–116.Google Scholar
  98. Tamaki, Taku. 2015. The Persistence of Reified Asia as Reality in Japanese Foreign Policy Narratives. Pacific Review 28 (1): 23–45.Google Scholar
  99. Topgyal, Tsering. 2016. The Tibetan Self-Immolations as Counter-Securitization: Towards an Inter-Unit Theory of Securitization. Asian Security 12 (3): 166–187.Google Scholar
  100. Vuori, Juha A. 2008. Illocutionary Logic and Strands of Securitization: Applying the Theory of Securitization to the Study of Non-Democratic Political Orders. European Journal of International Relations 14 (1): 65–99.Google Scholar
  101. Vuori, Juha A. 2011. Religion Bites: Falungong, Securitization/Desecuritization in the People’s Republic of China. In Securitization Theory: How Security Problems Emerge and Dissolve, ed. Tierry Balzacq, 186–211. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  102. Vuori, Juha A. 2015. Contesting and Resisting Security in Post-Mao China. In Contesting Security: Strategies and Logics, ed. Tierry Balzacq, 29–43. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  103. Wæver, Ole. 1995. Securitization and Desecuritization. In On Security, ed. Ronnie D. Lipschutz, 46–87. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  104. Wæver, Ole. 1998. Insecurity, Security and Asecurity in the West European Non-war Community. In Security Communities, ed. Emanuel Adler and Michael N. Barnett, 69–118. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  105. Wæver, Ole. 2000. The EU as a Security Actor: Reflections from a Pessimistic Constructivist on Post-sovereign Security Orders. In International Relations Theory and the Politics of European Integration, online ed, ed. Morten Kelstrup, 223–263. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  106. Yamazaki, Jane W. 2006. Japanese Apologies for World War II: A Rhetorical Study. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swedish Institute of International AffairsStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations