07-06-2007, 12:07 AM
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Re: Japan Official Resigns Over Bomb Comment
So some of you wouldn't like this huh?
TOKYO (AP) - Japan's military is making international peacekeeping a priority, scrambling to bolster its missile defenses and deepening its coordination with U.S. troops, an annual report said Friday.
The new focus on peacekeeping is part of a major transformation of Japan's post World War II military into a more ambitious institution. The change reflects efforts to make the country a more forceful player on the world stage and Japan's growing concern at China's expanding military might.
Japan has in recent years become more involved in peacekeeping missions, and sent several hundred troops to southern Iraq, where they were involved in reconstruction, water-purification and other humanitarian, non-combat activities.
Japanese navy ships also provide logistical support for coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The country will increase its participation in such missions, according to the "Defense of Japan 2007," which was approved by the Cabinet on Friday.
"International peace cooperation activities are a primary mission," said Defense Ministry spokesman Mamoru Kotaki.
The outward emphasis has been controversial.
Although Japan's military is one of the world's strongest and best-equipped, it is tightly constrained by the 1948 constitution, which bars the use of force to settle international disputes and limits the military to a strictly defensive role.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, citing the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea and the expansion and modernization of China's military, has championed a constitutional overhaul that would allow for a much freer hand in security policy.
Japan's push to strengthen its military has been backed by Washington, whose own forces are stretched thin by the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
A stronger Japan has raised concerns of an escalating arms race with China, however, and many Japanese are wary of being drawn into conflicts overseas or of funds being siphoned from social programs for military growth.
Japan spends roughly $42 billion annually on defense. The overall figure has remained relatively static at about 1 percent of GDP, compared with 3 percent in the United States. But experts note Japan is fourth or fifth in the world in defense outlays and that spending on areas like missile defense are swelling.
Kotaki said Tokyo was not seeking fundamental change in its basic defensive policies.
"There is no intention of departing from conventional defense policies or for Japan to become a military power," he said.
On the homefront, the annual report said ballistic missile defense will remain a crucial strategic and budgetary factor.
Working closely with Washington, Tokyo has spent $1.28 billion on ballistic missile defense this year, up from $1.14 billion in fiscal 2006. To further improve coordination, the Japanese Air Defense Command will be moved to a U.S. military base on the outskirts of Tokyo.