Japan to increase defence capability

TOKYO (AFP) – Japan’s prime minister yesterday called for a boost to the country’s defences in the face of North Korean threats, warning that Tokyo needs to be able to protect itself.

The call is a common refrain from nationalist leader Shinzo Abe, who has long advocated a stiffening of Japan’s military posture, despite its officially pacifist constitution.

In a speech to senior officers of the Self-Defence Forces – Japan’s name for the military – Abe said, “No one else will protect you if you don’t have the mindset of protecting yourself.

“We have to take all appropriate measures against (incidents such as) North Korea’s missile launch over Japan,” added the premier, who said he had asked his defence minister to draw up a blueprint for Japan’s medium-term defence strategy.

A PAC-3 surface-to-air missile launch system is seen in position at Japan’s Defence Ministry in Tokyo yesterday. – AFP

Abe, who moved quickly after the election of Donald Trump to keep the mercurial US president close, said that “strengthening the Japan-US alliance is vital” to ensure regional stability.

“We have to deter North Korea’s repeated provocative acts,” he said, noting recent joint drills with the United States in the Sea of Japan and defence cooperation with like-minded countries including Australia.

Abe’s comments come as the US pushes for the United Nations (UN) Security Council to vote on harsher sanctions on North Korea.