The Last War: The Nihon Empire
The rise of conservative isolationism in North America had been mirrored by its strongest economic rival. As the North American Combine formed in the first decades of the 21st Century, Japan also consolidated its power, and the Nihon Empire was born.
The Neo-Traditionalists planned to rebuild Japan, trading economic power for military strength, and replacing perceived western decadence with the traditional values of bushido. Within ten years they controlled the Diet and had transformed the small Self Defense Force into a true modern army. In 2060, Nihon began its conquests. Okinawa and the Philippines quickly fell to the new Japanese navy, with Indonesia, New Guinea, Borneo and the Soloman Islands following soon after.
Nihon's expansion stopped short of Australia and New Zealand. Instead, it turned its attention to China. Renewing claims made in 1910 and 1931, the Nihon Empire demanded the return of Manchuria and Korea. In 2071, a half-hour after the ultimatum arrived in Beijing, the Nihon Empire invaded, supported by fleet AI vessels that were essentially seagoing Ogres. Some had human crews; later, these were phased out. In 2085, Nihon fielded actual cybertanks, which proved as effective as any Western units.
The Sino-Nihon phase of the Last War continued until 2088, when the Chinese government collapsed. Until the end of the century, Nihon remained preoccupied with digesting its conquest, as the Combine and Paneurope played out their own battles in the West.