Just The Facts

East Asia Arms Race

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

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


  • 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.

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.”



Tags: , , , , , ,

Responses to “East Asia Arms Race”

Archived Comments.

  1. On April 25, 2014 at 8:52 am siddhartha1 responded with... #

    The elephant in the room which this piece avoids is the dragon that looms over East Asia.

    Why no figures on China’s huge and powerful armed forces, whether one looks at its nuclear capability, its space capability, its air force, its naval forces or its land forces?

  2. On April 25, 2014 at 10:04 am Tejpal responded with... #

    Well, it also doesn’t discuss the military might and size of US that is the most dreaded security concern for entire globe. US needs to be contained equally. There is too much of ambitious expansionism tendency to exploit the weaker nations or communities which needs attention. Most important global problem seems to be is population explosion which must be tackled at the same level as environmental pollution. The only available solution to such issues must be sought in a common minimum global “spiritual” programme to contain their desires.

  3. On April 25, 2014 at 10:39 am bhumphreyTG responded with... #

    We’ve got a fact sheet on the U.S. and Chinese militaries on the way. This one was just one of a set.