Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Paul Kowert

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Clair Apodaca

Third Advisor's Name

Harry Gould

Fourth Advisor's Name

Matthew Marr


Japanese Prime Minister, foreign policy leadership, Japanese defense policy, Japanese defense politics, policy entrepreneurship

Date of Defense



Since the end of the Cold War, Japan’s defense policy and politics has gone through significant changes. Throughout the post cold war period, US-Japan alliance managers, politicians with differing visions and preferences, scholars, think tanks, and the actions of foreign governments have all played significant roles in influencing these changes. Along with these actors, the Japanese prime minister has played an important, if sometimes subtle, role in the realm of defense policy and politics. Japanese prime ministers, though significantly weaker than many heads of state, nevertheless play an important role in policy by empowering different actors (bureaucratic actors, independent commissions, or civil actors), through personal diplomacy, through agenda-setting, and through symbolic acts of state. The power of the prime minister to influence policy processes, however, has frequently varied by prime minister.

My dissertation investigates how different political strategies and entrepreneurial insights by the prime minister have influenced defense policy and politics since the end of the Cold War. In addition, it seeks to explain how the quality of political strategy and entrepreneurial insight employed by different prime ministers was important in the success of different approaches to defense.

My dissertation employs a comparative case study approach to examine how different prime ministerial strategies have mattered in the realm of Japanese defense policy and politics. Three prime ministers have been chosen: Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro (1996-1998); Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro (2001-2006); and Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio (2009-2010). These prime ministers have been chosen to provide maximum contrast on issues of policy preference, cabinet management, choice of partners, and overall strategy.

As my dissertation finds, the quality of political strategy has been an important aspect of Japan’s defense transformation. Successful strategies have frequently used the knowledge and accumulated personal networks of bureaucrats, supplemented bureaucratic initiatives with top-down personal diplomacy, and used a revitalized US-Japan strategic relationship as a political resource for a stronger prime ministership. Though alternative approaches, such as those that have looked to displace the influence of bureaucrats and the US in defense policy, have been less successful, this dissertation also finds theoretical evidence that alternatives may exist.





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