Japan has an advanced and large economy that could support a larger military than the one it currently deploys. Japan is crossing a threshold that until now it has refrained from approaching:
Japan and the United States are exploring the possibility of Tokyo acquiring offensive weapons that would allow Japan to project power far beyond its borders, Japanese officials said, a move that would likely infuriate China.
While Japan's intensifying rivalry with China dominates the headlines, Tokyo's focus would be the ability to take out North Korean missile bases, said three Japanese officials involved in the process.
This will complement US-South Korean efforts to take down North Korea's nuclear capabilities.
But as China recognizes, Japanese offensive capabilities that will work against North Korea will work against China, too.
And why is Japan seeking to arm up?
Part of Japan's motivation for upgrading its capabilities is a nagging suspicion that the United States, with some 28,000 troops in South Korea as well as 38,000 in Japan, might hesitate to attack the North in a crisis, Japanese experts said.
I won't say that this is purely President Obama's fault. China's rising military power--even if it is not as great as it appears--is real and threatening to neighbors. Anyone would arm up.
As an aside regarding that "paper tiger" article, while China is surely not a near-peer competitor to America and far from a global power, China doesn't have to be a near peer or a global military power to threaten our interests--many of which lie very close to China.
Japan was quite the threat to us in 1941 when Japan's GDP was just a tenth of ours. How much more of a threat is China--weaknesses and all--when it will surely match us in GDP in the not-so-distant-future?
Is China to be dismissed as a threat until the chance of us fighting a Chinese expeditionary force of 100,000 troops on Mexico's Baja Peninsula is as likely as us fighting China on the Korean Peninsula?
So sure, China is not a near-peer competitor to us--I've never argued that. But it does not follow that China is a "paper tiger."
Back to the point, Japan sees an America explicitly trying to "lead from behind." And when you face a nutball nuclear regime on your door step, that isn't as comforting as you might think. If America won't lead, is Japan supposed to just accept being hit by nukes (again)?
So Japan will have offensive precision missile capabilities, in time. If they had more confidence in us leading and acting on Japan's behalf, Japan's reaction to China's rising power and North Korea's nuclear threat might be more general military capabilities rather than offensive missile capabilities.
China should count themselves lucky that Japan hasn't reacted to China's little nuclear pet nutball regime by going nuclear.
Perhaps conventional offensive capabilities will be a shot across the bow to China to behave more responsibly in regard to North Korea and threats to regional stability, in general.