Abe extends military under US' wing

Updated: 2014-07-08 07:31

By Cai Hong (China Daily)

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While Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera is in Washington this week to brief, please and consult his hosts, he will undoubtedly give top billing to the Japanese government's decision on July 1 to lift the decades-long ban on collective self-defense, which, according to the Japanese foreign ministry, is for "seamless" security cooperation between Japan and the United States.

US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has already given the US' ally a pat on the back, saying "the new policy will enable the Japanese self-defense forces to engage in a wider range of operations and make the US-Japan alliance even more efficient".

Onodera is also expected to discuss with his US counterpart the Guidelines for Japan-US Defense Cooperation, which the two countries plan to revise by the end of this year. The changes, the first in 17 years, will redefine the role of the Japan Self-Defense Forces and how they cooperate with the US military.

Japan wants to explicitly spell out the form of US military involvement in various possible situations regarding the Diaoyu Islands and strengthen the deterrence against China, a senior Japanese defense ministry official was quoted by the Yomiuri Shimbun as saying.

For decades, the United States has been pushing Japan to play a bigger military role. It has long urged its allies to assume more responsibility for common security threats and their own defense. Specifically, Washington has asked its allies, in Europe and Asia alike, to increase their defense expenditures, accept new missions, and develop new military capabilities.

The malleable Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stepped up to the plate and vitalized Japan's security, reversing an 11-year trend of annual reductions in defense spending and embracing a number of key expansionist moves - such as easing the curbs on military exports. And Abe announced on Sunday that he was creating a new ministerial security post with the responsibility of revising and introducing the laws necessary for the country to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

Even so, he is not in the good graces of some US experts.

"Abe's announcement is a rather limited set of adjustments to loosen the strict limitations on the situations under which the Japanese military can use force," Sheila A. Smith, senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was quoted by the Japan Times as saying.

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