Japanese PM vows to step up defense against threats from China, NK


TOKYO (AP) – Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, during his first troop review on Saturday, renewed his pledge to examine “all options”, including acquiring an enemy base strike capability, and pledged 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 was changing rapidly and “the reality is more dire than ever,” with North Korea continuing to test ballistic missiles while advancing its capabilities, and China pursuing military build-up and development. more and more activity in the region.

“I will consider all options, including possession of an enemy base strike capability, to continue building up the defensive power that is needed,” Kishida said in a speech to hundreds of Force members. Ground Self-Defense Force wearing olive-colored helmets and uniforms.

Kishida, who took office in October, served as Commander-in-Chief for the first time during the Self-Defense Forces Troop Review held on Saturday at the main military base in Camp Asaka, in north of Tokyo. About 800 soldiers gathered for the inspection, according to the Defense Ministry.

“The security environment surrounding Japan has changed rapidly at an unprecedented rate. Things that only happened in science fiction novels are the reality of today, ”Kishida said. He said his government will hold “calm and realistic” discussions to determine what is needed to protect people’s lives and gain their understanding.

The possibility of possessing a so-called enemy base strike capability has been a divisive issue because opponents say it violates Japan’s War Waiver Constitution.

Kishida shifted his conciliatory stance to take a more hawkish stance, apparently to please influential leaders in his ruling party, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and to strengthen his grip on power. He now advocates increasing Japanese military capabilities and spending.

Kishida’s cabinet on Friday approved a 770 billion yen ($ 6.8 billion) request for an additional defense budget through March to accelerate the purchase of missiles, anti-submarine rockets and d other weapons amid growing concern over escalating military activities from China, Russia and North Korea.

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

Kishida said he was ready to double Japan’s military spending to deal with the deteriorating security environment. Critics also say that Japan, as the world’s fastest aging country with a shrinking population, should allocate more money to healthcare and other services.

Compared to previous troop reviews, which included 4,000 troops, more than 200 vehicles and dozens of fighter jets, Saturday’s event was significantly reduced to minimize the impact on regular troop activity, have officials said. There was no parade or public screening, and only nine floats and other vehicles participated in the online event.

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Associated Press reporter Hiromi Tanoue contributed to this report.

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