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Japan To Strengthen International Alliances

In Brussels Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will become the first Japanese premier to attend a meeting of NATO's policy-making body, the North Atlantic Council. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 08, 2007
Japan is set to strengthen its international alliances by recognising that it shares common values with NATO, Australia and New Zealand, a report said Monday. The acknowledgement is likely to come in a joint US-Japan security report to be released in late January, when the two governments are to meet to discuss their security alliance, the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said.

US government officials had called on Tokyo to designate NATO, Australia and New Zealand as having "common values" with Japan and the US when the report is issued, the daily said.

The Japanese government has accepted the US request, the Mainichi said, adding that Washington aims to increase its participation in Japan's missile defense system with the publication of the report.

The missile defence project has been a key part of the strengthened Japan-US military alliance in recent years.

The news report came ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's trip to Europe, where he will meet the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Belgium as well as NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

In Brussels he will become the first Japanese premier to attend a meeting of NATO's policy-making body, the North Atlantic Council.

Japan was prompted to boost its missile defenses in cooperation with the United States in 1998 when North Korea fired a long-range missile over its main island and into the Pacific.

North Korea's July 5 firing of seven missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) also fueled the drive for the joint missile scheme.

earlier related report
Japan set to create first post-war defense ministry
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 8 - Japan is to create a full-fledged defense ministry on Tuesday for the first time since its World War II defeat, when the United States stripped the country of its right to a military.

The government is to upgrade the existing Defense Agency into the Defense Ministry. The agency had a lower standing than full-fledged ministries as Japan's 1947 constitution declared the country to be pacifist.

The creation of the ministry was a top priority for Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. The Diet, or parliament, passed the required legislation, with support from both the ruling coalition and main opposition, late December.

The move is based on "a change in the security environment surrounding our country," Defense Agency Chief Fumio Kyuma said during a military exercise in Chiba, southeast of Tokyo, at the weekend.

"It is important to make our Self-Defense Force more powerful," said Kyuma, who is to become the nation's first defense minister since the end of the war.

Japanese troops will still be called the "Self-Defense Force" despite the creation of the ministry. The country has one of the world's biggest military budgets at 4.81 trillion yen (41.6 billion dollars) a year.

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

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.

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

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

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

The bill also scraps the Defense Agency body that manages facilities after employees were arrested for alleged bid-rigging.

The government of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi cited the scandal to delay the creation of the defense ministry.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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