The Abe administration plans to review defense policy so the Self-Defense Forces can work more closely with the U.S. military in response to China’s rise.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Dec. 26 instructed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to see what changes need to be made to the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program.
“It is a priority we must work on with no letup,” Onodera told a news conference early on Dec. 27.
Abe, who has called for strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, is expected to explain his administration’s policy when he visits the United States in late January.
Current National Defense Program Guidelines outline Japan’s defense capabilities for 10 years from fiscal 2011. The Mid-Term Defense Program covers defense equipment capability for five years from fiscal 2011.
The two documents were approved by the Cabinet at the end of 2010 under the Democratic Party of Japan government.
Abe told Onodera to strengthen the SDF’s role to improve deterrence in line with the new U.S. military strategy that President Barack Obama announced in January.
The U.S. strategy called for forging closer alliances with its allies to counter China’s rise.
In its campaign platform for the Dec. 16 Lower House election, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party promised to expand the SDF’s manpower, equipment and budget by reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines and the Mid-Term Defense Program.
Abe also instructed Onodera to review Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, which stipulate cooperation between the SDF and the U.S. military.
The review, the first since 1997, will cover responses to China’s military buildup and maritime expansion. Discussions are expected to begin shortly.
The two countries originally planned to start discussions in early December, but the talks have been delayed due to North Korea’s missile launch and other issues.
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