Sunday, December 12, 2004

Japan new defense plan adopted. Targets: China and North Korea

Japan adopted new defense guidelines Friday, including
the relaxation of an arms-export ban that will
facilitate missile security with Washington, another
sign of Tokyo's move away from its postwar pacifism in
favor of greater military cooperation with its top ally.

The new plan marked the most significant overhaul of the
country's defense policy in a decade - a period during
which Tokyo has tried to increase security cooperation
with the United States - and comes a day after the
pro-U.S. government voted to keep Japanese troops in
Iraq on a humanitarian mission for another year past its
Dec. 14 deadline.

``This is about ensuring security and dealing with new
threats as the times change,'' Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi told reporters after the new plan was unveiled.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said the
government would ease Japan's ban on exporting weapons
to other countries in order to pursue a missile defense
program with Washington for security purposes. The plan
called for the easing, citing modern security threats,
including North Korean missiles, China's military
buildup and terrorism.

Japan has maintained the arms export ban since 1976 in
deference to its pacifist constitution, unchanged since
it was written by U.S. occupation forces after World War
II. The constitution renounces war and the use of force
in settling international disputes.

Yet Koizumi has stirred debate about constitutional
reform. He has backed an increasingly high-profile role
for Japan's military and closer security cooperation
with Washington, which maintains 50,000 troops here
under a security treaty.

Under his administration, Japan has 1,000 troops in Iraq
and neighboring countries engaged in non-combat
reconstruction work - the postwar military's largest and
most dangerous overseas operation. Earlier, in 2001,
Koizumi responded to the U.S. ``war on terror'' by
pushing through legislation to allow the navy to provide
logistical support to forces in Afghanistan.

Critics have said such efforts are chipping away at the
pacifist society Japan has built since its destruction
in World War II. The new guidelines played down such
fears, reiterating that Japan's military was not going
on the offensive.

``Our country, under our constitution, will adhere
exclusively to self-defense,'' the report said.
``Following our policy of not becoming a major military
power that would pose a threat to other countries, we
will secure civilian control.''

The plan, approved in a Cabinet meeting, also vowed to
maintain the country's policy of not making or
possessing nuclear weapons. Japan is the only country to
have been attacked with nuclear weapons, when the United
States twice hit the country in 1945.

The revisions threaten to alarm Asian neighbors, who
suffered under Japan's expansionist policies earlier
last century.

Both China and North Korea were singled out as regional
security concerns in the outline, which covers from 2005
to 2014.

China's efforts to build up and modernize its military,
as well as its expanded range of naval activities, have
been closely monitored by Japan. Tensions between the
two Asian powerhouses spiked last month, when a Chinese
nuclear submarine infiltrated Japanese waters and
prompted an alert.

Pyongyang has also grown into one of Tokyo's biggest
security worries. It test-fired a long-range ballistic
missile over Japan in 1998 and is believed to be
developing nuclear weapons.


-- "China, which has a great impact on security in this
region, is pushing ahead with enhancing its nuclear and
missile capabilities in modernizing its navy and air
force while expanding marine activities. We need to
continue to watch these moves in the future."

-- "North Korea is developing, deploying and
proliferating weapons of mass destruction and ballistic
missiles and maintains large-scale special units. These
military moves of North Korea are serious, destabilizing
factors for regional security."

-- Russian military power in the Far East has been
reduced greatly since the end of Cold War but there is
still uncertainty over the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan


-- Japan will maintain a policy of not exporting
weapons, but will make an exception under "strict
control" for exports to the United States meant for
joint development and production of a missile shield,
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said in a
statement on the new guidelines.

Japan will decide whether to export weapons to the
United States or other countries for purposes other than
missile defense, such as measures to counter terrorism
or piracy, on a case-by-case basis, Hosoda said.


-- Japan's security alliance with the United States is
"indispensable," the guidelines said.


-- Japan will reduce its conventional arms buildup as
the possibility of a full-scale invasion has decreased
with the end of the Cold War.

-- Japanese troops need to be able to cope with
emergencies quickly and flexibly based on high
technology and efficient information gathering.

-- Japan will keep a watch for and take "appropriate
measures" against foreign intrusions into its air and
sea space.

-- Japan will build up its information-gathering
capability to detect threats.


-- Japan will actively engage in international
peace-keeping activities in close cooperation with


-- The new guidelines are for the coming 10 years but
could be revised in five years if a "serious change"
emerges in the security situation.

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