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Japan Launches Study On Collective Defence

Japan has gradually been boosting its military despite its official pacifism. Last month it deployed its first ballistic missile defence system amid growing concern about North Korea. Japan's most high-profile mission was to send troops to Iraq on a reconstruction mission.
by Shigemi Sato
Tokyo (AFP) April 25, 2007
Japan launched a study Wednesday on how it could fight for allies without breaching its pacifist constitution, a controversial move that could boost the country's global role and alliance with the United States.

The move came the day before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a conservative who has vowed to create a more assertive Japan, makes his first visit to the United States since taking office.

"It is necessary to reconstruct the legal foundations to make security effective and match the situation of the times," Abe said, calling for the panel to consider the issue of so-called "collective defence."

His government appointed an advisory panel of former officials and academics led by ex-ambassador to Washington Shunji Yanai.

The panel would hold its first meeting on May 18 and aim to draw up a report to Abe before the end of the year, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki aid.

One theoretical case the panel will reportedly consider is whether Japan has the right to destroy a ballistic missile fired by North Korea at the United States.

The constitution, imposed by US occupiers after World War II, says Japan forever renounces the use of force to resolve international disputes.

Successive governments have interpreted the 1947 constitution as allowing the right only to self-defence in the strictest sense.

Abe, Japan's first leader born after World War II, has vowed to rewrite the constitution.

"I hope that discussions will be actively held with the people on the way the constitution, which presents the shape and form of the nation, should be as we strive to build a new nation," Abe said.

But a senior member of his own party publicly disagreed with him as they attended a ceremony marking next week's 60th anniversary of the constitution taking effect.

"Under the constitution, troops from our country have never stolen the life of a single person in any other country. This path of peace is an achievement we can be proud of," said Yohei Kono, speaker of the House of Representatives.

"It is my ardent hope that discussions on the constitution will be held from a broad point of view and with the willingness to learn from history in a humble manner and with a sense of responsibility for the future of our country and people."

History issues remain sore points with China and South Korea, which often accuse Japan of failing to atone for its past.

A 2000 report, written by Richard Armitage and other US foreign policy experts, labelled the ban a "constraint" and called for it to be lifted.

Armitage, who served as deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, met Abe on Wednesday and discussed the panel.

Armitage, now employed in the private sector, told reporters that the decision to study the issue "allows more flexibility from Japan and we think this is a good thing."

The United States stations more than 40,000 troops in Japan and is obliged by treaty to protect the country from enemy attack.

Japan has gradually been boosting its military despite its official pacifism. Last month it deployed its first ballistic missile defence system amid growing concern about North Korea.

Japan's most high-profile mission was to send troops to Iraq on a reconstruction mission.

But due to the pacifist constitution, the forces were protected by soldiers from allied nations. The Japanese troops returned home last year without firing a single shot.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Abe Sees More Assertive Japan Across Entire World
Washington (AFP) April 22, 2007
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, in remarks published Sunday, that he expected his country to be playing a more assertive security role throughout "the entire world" -- and have a new constitution to back this ambition.

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