The next few months will be critical for Japan’s defense and security policies. The National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) that outline the framework for national security policy are due by year’s end. This in turn provides the foundation for the Mid-Term Defense Program, which translates that outline into specific programs and purchases. The NDPG is being prepared in a particularly sensitive time as Japan (like the rest of the world) reels under the North Korean nuclear and missile tests and tries to make sense of China’s military modernization effort. Hanging over all these deliberations are increasingly strained relations with the U.S. and the prospect of a historic change in government when the country holds general elections.