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Japan's Navy: Politics and Paradox

Peter J. Woolley
ISBN: 978-1-55587-819-1
1999/166 pages/LC: 99-27841

"Offers unparalleled insights into the capabilities, missions and evolution of the MSDF over the past three decades."—Paul Midford, International Relations of the Asia Pacific

"Defense policy in Japan is a subtle subject requiring specialist cultural 'feel' and understanding. This Wooley amply provides.... The author has done an excellent job in analysing the evolution of what might be call the higher aspects of naval policy in Japan in the later Cold War years and the immediate post-Cold War era.... A highly significant contribution to the still limited literature on a navy of growing significance."—Eric Grove, Northern Mariner: Journal of the Canadian Nautical Research Society

"Japan's Navy ought to provide students of Japan's postwar rearmament with a necessary starting point for many years to come."—Peter Mauch, H-Net Reviews

"An excellent reference for anyone wanting to understand Japanese defense policy and the forces that affect it."—Robert Morabito, Naval War College Review

"Woolley's profound understanding of culture and systems in Japanese society and politics is strongly reflected throughout the book, giving a brilliant insight into his analyses on the making of Japan's defense policies."—Isoko Sunakawa, Journal of Conflict Studies


Japan’s navy, after that of the United States, is now the most potent in the Pacific Ocean. This book examines the development and potential of the Japanese navy in the context of the U.S.–Japan alliance.

Woolley presents Japan’s coming of age as a military—primarily naval—power in a series of case studies on sea-lane defense, minesweeping, and participation in UN peacekeeping operations. He also considers recent political and military decisions from a range of analytical perspectives. Throughout his analysis, he emphasizes the strategic importance of Japan to U.S. interests in maintaining international stability.


Peter J. Woolley is associate professor of comparative politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University.


  • Introduction: Approaching Policy and Politics.
  • A Cultural View: The Kata of Maritime Forces.
  • The Legal/Constitutional Conundrum.
  • The Pulling and Hauling of Sea-lane Defense.
  • Money, Minesweeping, and the Persian Gulf Crisis of 1990-1991.
  • UN Peacekeeping Operations.
  • In Sum: Democracy, Strategy, and Alliance.