17.486 | Fall 2016 | Graduate

Japan and East Asian Security

Syllabus and Calendar


Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


MIT students need the permission of the instructor.

Course Description

This subject is designed for graduate students interested in international politics, national security and comparative political economy in East Asia. It examines the political, military, and economic challenges facing Japan, its neighbors, and the international system under conditions of change and uncertainty. Topics range from the history of once “new” world orders to theories that inform our understanding of international affairs and foreign policy decision-making, as each is related to Japan. We focus on Japanese bilateral, regional, and global security policies from a range of theoretical perspectives.


  • A précis (2 pages)
  • A short scenario paper (10 pages)
  • A longer briefing paper (up to 25 pages)
  • An oral presentation in class

For more information on the course assignments, see the Assignments section.

Active, informed seminar participation will be a large part of the student evaluation.

Required Text

Pyle, Kenneth B. Japan Rising: The Resurgence of Japanese Power and Purpose. Public Affairs, 2008. ISBN: 9781586485672.

Samuels, Richard J. Securing Japan: Tokyo’s Grand Strategy and the Future of East Asia. Cornell University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780801474903. [Preview with Google Books]

Smith, Sheila A. Intimate Rivals: Japanese Domestic Politics and a Rising China. Columbia University Press, 2016. ISBN: 9780231167895.

For additional readings, see the Readings section.


I. Historical and Theoretical Background

Japan and the Old World Orders

Modernizing Japan, Imperial Japan, and Client Japan. Relations between Japan and the Great Powers Past and Present: China, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States.


Japan and Old New World Orders

Can we derive lessons for Japanese security from the previous transitions in world orders? How does IR theory apply to Japanese history?


Technology, Ideology, Security, and Strategy

How are doctrine, ideology, technology and national security linked? How are they linked to grand strategy? What is the strategic relationship of the military and civilian economies?

II. Inside the Japanese System

Domestic Politics and Japanese Security

To what extent do values, norms, and ideas drive strategic choices in Japan? And where do they come from? Do they shape institutions or are they shaped by them? What is the role of civil society in constraining foreign policy choices? How important is partisanship?


Japanese Foreign Economic Policy

What are the instruments and institutions of Japanese foreign economic policy? How are trade and aid linked to security and grand strategy?


Civil-Military Relations in Japan

How have bureaucrats and politicians interacted and how have they maintained control of the Japanese military?


The Japan-US Alliance: A Bilateral View

How do U.S.- Japan bilateral relations shape Japan’s strategic choices? How do Japan and the United States balance political, military, economic, and technological interests without one another?

III. Japan and the World System

China, Korea, and Southeast Asia: The Regional View

From the Guam to the Fukuda to the Koizumi Doctrines and beyond. Japanese relations with its neighbors. Collective security and confidence building in Northeast, East and Southeast Asia. The rise of China, the Northern Territories, Korean Unification, the DPRK.


Japan’s Global Role

Is Japan a “great power”? What global public goods has it created—at United Nations? With its ODA? By championing non-proliferation? What of its international security role after the first Gulf War and in Iraq? And what of more recent anti-piracy campaigns?

IV. Analysis and Prognostication

Student briefings on US-Japan bilateral topics:

  • The US-Japan Military Alliance
  • Extended Deterrence
  • Weapons Co-development, Co-Production, and Dual-Use Technology Transfer
  • Bilateral Trade and Investment

Student briefings on regional topics:

  • Regional Trade and Investment
  • New Security Architecture
  • Japanese Military Build-up
  • Japan and the Korean Peninsula
  • Sino-Japanese Relations
  • Russo-Japanese Relations
  • Japan-ASEAN Relations

Student briefings on global topics:

  • Japan and Terrorism
  • Global Warming
  • Collective Security
  • Japan and Maritime Security
  • Japan and the United Nations
  • Japan and International Organizations (World Bank, United Nations, WTO, IMF, OECD, etc.)
  • Global Treaties

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2016