Thursday, November 16, 2006
Abe seeks strong Japanese defenseWASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that he would push during his term to revise Japan's war-renouncing constitution as part of his plan to improve the country's defense capabilities.
Saying he hoped it would foster a "new spirit" in Japan, Abe said, in an interview with The Washington Post, that he would seek a new constitution within six years.
In the interview posted on the newspaper's Web site, Abe also suggested that his administration could take the interim step of reinterpreting the existing constitution to more rapidly achieve his goal.
The Japanese constitution drafted by U.S. occupation forces after World War Two bans the country from maintaining a military, although it has been interpreted as allowing armed forces purely for defense purposes.
Abe also vowed to fortify the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance during his first official meeting with President George W. Bush at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Hanoi this weekend, the Post said.
Despite the strong Japan-U.S. alliance, Abe noted that it is not clear whether Tokyo is permitted under its constitution to shoot down a ballistic missile flying over Japanese territory en route to the United States, the Post said.
Japan had to pass special laws to allow its armed forces to be sent to the Indian Ocean off Afghanistan and to Iraq in support of U.S. operations.
Even then, its forces were allowed to operate only in noncombat zones and to take part only in activities such as reconstruction and logistical support.
Leading Japanese scholars have said that rather than revising the constitution, policy changes could be made through official clarifications issued by the cabinet, the Post said.
Abe called for analysis of new security protocols on a case-by-case basis, the newspaper said.
"We need to take up each individual example and study whether they 'actually' infringe upon the constitution," said Abe.
Abe also vowed that Japan would adhere to its non-nuclear principles, but added that he could not stop private citizens from expressing their views.
"For the general public to discuss this matter -- for example, academics, scholars or journalists -- is the freedom of the Japanese people," said Abe. "I am not in a position of restricting that."
Controversy erupted last month when a key member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Japan should discuss whether it should acquire nuclear weapons after North Korea conducted a nuclear test.
Resuming discussions with China.
The Associated Press also reported that Japan and China are resuming discussion between their defense chiefs after a three-year hiatus, according to Japanese officials.
The two sides are arranging talks in Japan between Zhang Qinsheng, a senior officer in the People's Liberation Army, and Defense Agency Vice Minister Takemasa Moriya, a Defense Agency spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
The Nihon Keizai business daily said the meetings are likely scheduled for November 28 or November 29.
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