The balance of power in Asia is shifting rapidly, with important consequences for Japanese security and the U.S.-Japan alliance. China's defense budget has grown 650% in real terms since 1996 and Beijing has spent that money effectively. The People's Liberation Army has become a formidable military force capable of challenging U.S. power at an increasing distance from the Asian continent. Its conventionally armed cruise and ballistic missiles, combined with a large fleet of modern warplanes, surface warships and submarines, could inflict heavy losses on Japanese and U.S. forces during the opening stage of any conflict.
Given this development and statements by President Donald Trump during his election campaign, American allies rationally fear that the U.S. may not fulfill commitments to defend them. They are evaluating how their own defense capabilities might be strengthened, either as a hedge against abandonment by the U.S. or preferably, as an inducement for the U.S. military to remain. These calculations are underway, with different tentative answers, in Europe as well as in Canberra, Manila, Bangkok, Singapore and Tokyo.