Kim Jong Un's Missiles May Be Final Nail for Japan's Pacifism

The two ballistic missiles that North Korea fired over Japan in the past three weeks sent ordinary Japanese citizens scrambling for cover, rattled financial markets and shocked a region long accustomed to a tense peace.

But amid the crisis, one man's stock appears to be rising. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's public approval ratings have surged along with his prospects for revising the country's pacifist constitution, acquiring more powerful weapons and confronting China's rising regional clout.

While Abe hopes his growing stature will allow him to bolster Japan's military in the face of multiple threats beyond North Korea, he risks alarming neighbors who have not forgotten the horrors of its World War II-era expansion.

"In a sense, it's as if China and North Korea are supporting Abe's popularity," said Yukihisa Fujita, a lawmaker with the opposition Democratic Party.

Fujita worries that Abe's moves will cause "unnecessary mistrust and tensions, not only by governments but also people in other countries."

Abe had set a deadline to revise the constitution by 2020 — the year Tokyo will host the Olympic Games — to formalize Japan's Self-Defense Forces as an actual military. While a mostly symbolic move, it's one that feeds red meat to his conservative base.

Abe's popularity has proved unstable in the past: He distanced himself from his own deadline when his approval ratings dipped over the summer and some analysts attribute his recent burst of popularity to scandals among his opponents.

"There is right now a one-sided arms race that China is winning"

But he's nevertheless moving ahead with plans to purchase more advanced weaponry capable of offensive operations, such as Tomahawk cruise missiles and the first batch of an order for 42 advanced F-35s fighter jets from the United States.

He's also beefing up Japan's defenses by adding a land-based missile defense system called Aegis Ashore to its sea-borne capabilities.

All of this will be paid for by the country's most sustained stretch of military funding increases in a generation.

Read more at NBC News