Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Japan plans for stronger military

APPROVAL EXPECTED:The Cabinet is likely to vote on the new plan next week, along with revised defense program guidelines. China criticized the plan yesterday

AP, TOKYO

Three of the disputed Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyutais in Taiwan — Uotsurijima (Diaoyu ), top; Minamikojima (Nanxiao), bottom; and Kitakojima (Beixiao) — are seen in the East China Sea in September last year.

Photo: Reuters / Kyoto

A near-final draft of a new Japanese national security strategy calls for a stronger military to deal with a rising China and other growing risks close to home.

The development of the formal security strategy is part of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to boost Japan’s defense and its international role. It reflects global power shifts, notably changes in the relative influence of Japan’s longtime protector, the US.

“As the security environment surrounding our country gets increasingly severe, we have been working to rebuild our national security policy with a firm commitment to defend the people’s lives and possessions,” Abe said yesterday at a meeting where a panel of experts and lawmakers discussed their draft.

The national security strategy is modeled in part on similar documents in the US and elsewhere. The Cabinet is expected to approve the strategy next week, along with a revision of Japan’s long-term defense program guidelines.

Much of the strategy is contentious, as many Japanese remain wary of moves away from the pacifist constitution adopted after World War II. One early sign of opposition was a drop in Abe’s popularity ratings last weekend after his government forced through legislation to strengthen the protection of government secrets.

South Korea is also uncomfortable with any Japanese military expansion because it was colonized by Japan, and China is likely to protest.

“Japan’s accusations and hyping of the China threat have an ulterior motive,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊) said yesterday. “We urge Japan to follow the historical trend, walk on the path of peaceful development and make due efforts to improve ties.”

The draft security strategy says changes in the US’ relative influence make it necessary for Japan to expand its alliances with other countries. It raises concern about China’s rapid military expansion, as well as North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

It says Japan can contribute to peace and international stability by strengthening its diplomatic and defense capabilities. It describes Japan’s alliance with the US as an “indispensable” deterrent, but says it should be supplemented by Tokyo’s own efforts to step up missile defenses and other capabilities.

To defend territorial claims in areas disputed with China, the government should step up maritime defense, the report says, citing recent Chinese entries into airspace and waters around contested islands in the East China Sea.

The report also says Japan should relax bans on arms exports.

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