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Japan Creates Defense Ministry For First Time Since 1945
File photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy AFP.
File photo of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 15, 2006
Japan on Friday created a full-fledged defense ministry for the first time since World War II, when the United States stripped the defeated country of its right to a military. The upper house voted, with support from both the ruling coalition and main opposition, to create the defense agency. The lower house had earlier passed the bill, meaning it becomes law, a parliamentary official said.

Post-war Japan has had a "Defense Agency" with lower standing than full-fledged ministries as the 1947 constitution declared the country to be pacifist.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese leader to be born after the war, has put a top priority on creating a defense ministry and eventually rewriting the constitution.

The reform would give Defense Agency Director General Fumio Kyuma the title of defense minister, although Japanese troops would still be called the "Self-Defense Forces".

Previous attempts to create a defense ministry stalled over political sensitivities in light of Japan's past aggression and fears of upsetting neighboring countries.

Despite its official pacifism, Japan has one of the world's biggest military budgets at 4.81 trillion yen (41.6 billion dollars) a year.

While public opinion is divided on how far to veer from Japan's half-century of pacifism, the bill to create the defense ministry had wide support, with only the small opposition Social Democratic and Communist parties opposed.

Japan has steadily been assuming a more visible military presence to counter its post-war image as solely an economic power.

In a groundbreaking move, Japan sent troops on a reconstruction mission to Iraq, the first time since 1945 that it had deployed to a country where fighting was underway.

The troops suffered no casualties and never fired their weapons, relying on Australian, British and Dutch forces to protect them.

It also sent close to 1,000 troops to Indonesia to assist with relief after the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Besides symbolism, the bill would also give the defense ministry more power in internal wrangling by letting it submit its own budget requests.

The bill changes the status of troops to list overseas activities as one of their missions. Until now, deployments abroad were considered "extraordinary", leading the government to seek parliament approval.

The bill also scraps the Defense Agency body that manages facilities after employees were arrested for alleged bid-rigging. Former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi's government cited the scandal to delay the creation of the defense ministry.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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100 Years Of Grandpa Brezhnev
Moscow, Russia (RIA Novosti) Dec 18, 2006
There were many jokes about Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader whose centenary will be observed on December 19. Many people look back on the Brezhnev era with nostalgia and believe that it was under him that the nation reached the peak of its might. The Soviet Union and Soviet culture will always be associated with Brezhnev's name. This was his time - vegetarian and violent, absurd and rational, unspeakably dull and incredibly interesting all at the same time.

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