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Tokyo reviews national defense policy

Observers outside Japan worry that the nation will militarize

Jan 25,2017
Tokyo, amid increased military threats from North Korea and China, is reviewing its National Defense Program Guideline to reinforce its capabilities as a military power by the mid-2020s, reported Japanese media Tuesday.

The national defense guidelines are drawn up every 10 years and serve as a basis for Tokyo’s security strategy.

The current guidelines were adopted in 2013 and are expected to run through 2023, but the Japanese government is already seeking a revision just four years in.

Mainichi Shimbun reported Tuesday that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet is expected to push up a review of its guidelines to coincide with its mid-term defense program running from 2019 to 2023, which involves key defense acquisitions.

It plans to review building a new ballistic-missile defense system and include it in the budget for the midterm plan from 2019 to 2023. The government also plans to review establishing a permanent joint headquarters for its Self-Defense Forces for its ground, maritime and air forces.

Under its guidelines, Japan notes with “great concern” China’s aerial and maritime activities in the East China Sea and South China Sea as well as its establishment of a unilateral air-defense identification zone, while pointing out that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development pose an “imminent threat” to Japan’s security.

The guidelines also call to build a “comprehensive defense architecture” and with regard to nuclear threats, it states that, along with extended deterrence provided by the United States, Japan “will take appropriate responses through its own efforts” such as ballistic-missile defense.

But over the past year, North Korea launched its fourth and fifth nuclear tests and tested over 20 ballistic missiles, some landing in waters controlled by Japan. Abe said North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have reached “a new level.”

Tokyo also faces a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu by Beijing, leading to the possibility of escalated military tension in the East China Sea.

Mainichi also reported that the Japanese government has many opinions with regard to a revision of its national defense program guideline, thus it will also be observing the new Donald Trump administration’s policies toward the region before it makes a final decision to revise it.

Trump has been calling for allies, including Japan and Korea, to pay more to support U.S. troops in the region, but Seoul, a victim of colonial invasion by Japan, remains wary of Tokyo’s push toward militarism.

The Shinzo Abe administration has pushed to amend Japan’s 70-year-old Peace Constitution, which forever renounces war.

Japan’s current defense guideline stipulates that “under the Constitution, Japan will efficiently build a highly effective and joint defense force in line with the basic principles of maintaining an exclusively defense-oriented policy, not becoming a military power that poses a threat to other countries.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joonang.co.kr]


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