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East Asia Arms Race

How do the militarized nations of East Asia view each other?

April 22, 2014

Japanese soldiers training in the United States. (Credit: U.S. Army - Wikimedia)

1. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has prioritized a focus on the military, purportedly in response to China’s assertiveness in the region.

2. Japan’s effort to loosen constitutional constraints on its military has created nervousness in much of Asia.

3. China is increasingly seen as a menace by other Asian nations, especially in the South China and East China seas. But memories of past Japanese invasions also remain fresh in China, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.

4. Today, Japan’s military is slightly larger than France’s, which — at 229,000 — is the largest in Europe (aside from Russia).

5. With 247,000 troops, the Japanese military is just the 13th largest in Asia.

6. Japan’s military is considerably smaller than South Korea’s, whose military, at a troop level of 655,000, ranks sixth in the world.

7. South Korea’s large military owes to the fact that North Korea — which was partitioned from South Korea in the aftermath of World War II — has 1.19 million people serving in its military.

8. North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest military force — 41% larger than Russia’s.

9. North Korea, which has only 24.8 million people, has almost as many troops as India (1.325 million) — even though India’s population is 50 times larger.

Source: The Globalist Research Center, from International Institute for Strategic Studies’ “Military Balance 2013” and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s “Military Expenditure Database.”



More on this topic


Today, Japan's military is slightly larger than France's, the largest in Europe after Russia.

With 247,000 troops, the Japanese military is just the 13th largest in Asia.

South Korea's military, at a troop level of 655,000, ranks 6th in the world.

North Korea has the world's 4th-largest military force, 41% larger than Russia's.

N. Korea has 50x fewer people than India, but its military is almost as large as India's.