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Abe Says Assertive Japan No Threat To Neighbours

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Hiroshi Hiyama
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 16, 2007
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday other nations had nothing to fear from Japan's new "assertive diplomacy", after his return from an ice-breaking summit with China and South Korea. Japan would actively engage with its partners and allies to maintain international security, he said, playing down concerns in the region about the creation of the country's first full-fledged defence ministry since World War II.

"The upgrade from the agency to ministry does not mean an expansion of military spending or military strength," Abe said in a speech to a think tank.

"It doesn't mean a threat to the region either. Rather this indicates our commitment to the contribution of peace and stability of the region," said Abe, who has just returned from a week-long trip to Europe and an East Asia summit.

Japan last week elevated its defence agency to a cabinet-level ministry as part of Abe's efforts to build a more assertive nation.

Any sign of a more militaristic Japan stirs unease in China, which was devastated by Japan's 1931 invasion and subsequent long war of conquest that killed millions of Chinese.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency has said the step could upset the "regional equilibrium", while North Korea denounced the upgrade as "whetting the sword" for invading its neighbors again.

Abe, Japan's first premier to be born after the war, made the creation of a defence ministry one of his priorities. He also aims eventually to rewrite the US-imposed 1947 pacifist constitution.

Abe later told a press conference that he felt a "solid sense of achievement" during his visits to Europe and the East Asia summit in the Philippines, where he held talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun in the first trilateral summit in two years.

He said he would further bolster ties with nations with shared values such as freedom, democracy, the protection of human rights and rule of law.

"By building stronger bonds with those nations who share the same values as ours, we must tackle the various problems of the world, such as regional conflicts, climate changes, the fight against poverty," he said.

In his first tour to Europe since taking the office in late September, Abe earned support from European leaders for his hard stance on the North Korean nuclear issue and pledged closer ties with NATO.

Abe, who is known for his hawkish stance against North Korea, said Japan would continue to press Pyongyang on its nuclear arms program and kidnapping of Japanese nationals during the 1970s and 1980s.

"We are using both dialogue and pressure with North Korea. It's time for the international community to coordinate its efforts to put pressure" on Pyongyang, he said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Japan is considering a policy shift that would allow troops engaged in international peacekeeping operations to pre-emptively fire their weapons, a report said Sunday.







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