||Why did Japan deploy ballistic missile defense when and how it did? The prevailing
view characterizes Japan’s BMD decision as a response to North Korea’s 1998 Taepodong
missile launch. But “Ballistic Missile Defense in Japan: Process-Tracing a Historical
Trajectory” contests this simple assumption of causation. The thesis first pieces
together a more comprehensive historical narrative from contemporary sources and interviews
with formal officials. Analysis of this newly revised timeline then demonstrates that
focusing events like the Taepodong incident were but one of several factors driving
BMD; others included alliance pressures, bureaucratic leadership, and defense industry
profitability. These findings are more important now than ever as the United States
pivots towards Asia and transitions to relying on Japan as an equal military partner.
Understanding the history of missile defense in Japan leads to the heart of how and
why the United States’ close ally makes its national security decisions, and thus
allows both parties to forge a better alliance.