Japanese PM vows to step up defense amid threats from China, North Carolina

Japanese PM vows to step up defense amid threats from China, North Carolina

Tokyo — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, in his first troop review Saturday, renewed his pledge to consider “all options,” including acquiring an enemy base attack capability, and vowed to create a stronger Self-Defense Force to protect the country amid growing threats from China. and North Korea.

Kishida said the security situation around Japan is changing rapidly and that “the reality is more dangerous than ever,” with North Korea continuing to test ballistic missiles while developing its capabilities, and China seeking an increasingly assertive military buildup and activity in the region.

“I will consider all options, including having a so-called enemy base attack capability, to continue strengthening the necessary defensive force,” Kishida said in a speech to hundreds of Ground Self-Defense Force personnel in oil-coloured helmets and uniforms.

Kishida, who took office in October, became commander-in-chief for the first time in a parade of the Self-Defense Forces on Saturday at a major military base at Camp Asaka, north of Tokyo. The Defense Ministry said about 800 soldiers had gathered for the inspection.

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“The security environment surrounding Japan is changing at an unprecedented speed and speed. Things that used to only happen in science fiction are the reality of today,” Kishida said, and said his government would lead “calm and realistic” discussions to determine what was needed to protect and understand people’s lives.

The possibility of having a so-called enemy base attack capability has been a moot issue because opponents say it violates Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.

Kishida changed his dovish stance to a more hawkish one, apparently to appease influential leaders within his ruling party, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and to consolidate his grip on power. He is now calling for increased Japanese military capacity and spending.

Kishida’s cabinet on Friday approved a request of 770 billion yen ($6.8 billion) for an additional defense budget through March to speed up procurement of missiles, anti-submarine missiles and other weapons amid growing concerns about escalation of military activities by China, Russia and other countries. North Korea.

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The request, which is still awaiting parliamentary approval, is a record for an additional defense budget and will bring Japan’s military spending for the current year to a new high of more than 6.1 trillion yen ($53.2 billion), up 15% from 5.31 trillion yen in 2020. The combined budget for the year will be 2021 Just over 1% of Japan’s GDP, while maintaining its usual cap.

Kishida said he is open to doubling Japan’s military spending to deal with the deteriorating security environment. Critics also say Japan, as the world’s fastest-aging country with a shrinking population, should allocate more money to health care and other services.

Officials said that compared to previous reviews of troops, which included 4,000 troops, more than 200 vehicles and dozens of warplanes, Saturday’s event was significantly scaled back to lessen the impact on regular troop activity. There was no public display or parade, and only nine tanks and other vehicles took part in the online event.

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Hiromi Tano contributed to this report by Associated Press.

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