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Posts tagged ‘Land of the Rising Sun’

Japan holds evacuation drill amid tension from N. Korea

June 04, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese town conducted an evacuation drill Sunday amid rising fear that a North Korean ballistic missile could hit Japanese soil. More than 280 residents and schoolchildren from Abu, a small town with a population of just over 3,400 on Japan’s western coast, rushed to designated school buildings to seek shelter after sirens from loudspeakers warned them of a possible missile flight and debris falling on them.

The drill follows three consecutive weeks of North Korean missile tests. Last week, a missile splashed into the sea inside Japan’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone off the country’s western coast. It was the second such drill since March, when Tokyo instructed local governments to review their contingency plans and conduct evacuation exercises.

A similar drill was conducted Sunday in the neighboring prefecture of Fukuoka in southern Japan, and others are planned over the next few months.

This story has been corrected to show Abu town is on Japan’s western coast.

Japan public split on idea to cite military in constitution

May 29, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Poll results released Monday show that about half of Japan’s population supports a constitutional revision that would clarify the legality of the country’s military, a new approach Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is proposing as his party struggles to gain public support for a change.

Abe proposed recently that Japan in some way indicate the existence of the Self-Defense Forces, which is not spelled out in Article 9 of the constitution. The article renounces war and the use of force to settle international disputes.

He made the proposal this month in what was seen as a compromise, but opponents see it as a step to justify expanding Japan’s military capabilities, which currently have to be kept to a minimum. In the Nikkei newspaper poll, 51 percent of 1,595 respondents supported including a reference to the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9. Thirty-six percent were opposed.

Recent polls by other major media outlets also showed mixed results. Japan decided it had the right under the 1947 constitution to have a military for self-defense, but some legal experts have questioned that, though fewer people do so now.

Abe and his party have maintained the constitutionality of the Self-Defense Forces, saying every nation has the right of self-defense as allowed under the United Nations charter. Citing his party’s position, opponents have grown skeptical over Abe’s latest proposal and intention of bringing up the Self-Defense Force legality issue.

Experts say Abe’s proposal could lower a hurdle for public support and may be good enough for a symbolic first change to the constitution, which Abe said he wants enacted by 2020. Japan’s 70-year-old constitution has never been revised.

Japan’s ruling party has long advocated a more drastic revision, but the public generally supports the war-renouncing article. The party and its nationalistic supporters view the country’s postwar constitution as the legacy of Japan’s defeat in World War II and an imposition of the victor’s world order and values weighing too much on individuals’ rights.

The party-proposed revisions to the constitution released in 2012 called for upgrading the Self-Defense Forces to a full armed forces and establishing a military court.

US, Japan, France, UK practice amphibious landings on Guam

May 11, 2017

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — The U.S., the U.K. and Japan are joining a French-led amphibious exercise at remote U.S. islands in the Pacific over the next week. Participants say they are showing support for the free passage of vessels in international waters, an issue that’s come to the fore amid fears China could restrict movement in the South China Sea.

The drills around Guam and Tinian may also get the attention of nearby North Korea. Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea spiked last month after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile and the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region.

The drills, which are led by France and include the United Kingdom, will practice amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols. Two ships from France are participating, both of which are in the middle of a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans. Joining are U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise will feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French ship.

“The message we want to send is that we’re always ready to train and we’re always ready for the next crisis and humanitarian disaster wherever that may be,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col Kemper Jones, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. About 100 Marines from Jones’ unit will be part of the drills slated for this weekend and next week.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its foothold in recent years by transforming seven mostly submerged reefs into island outposts, some with runways and radars and — more recently — weapons systems. This has prompted criticism from other nations, who also claim the atolls, and from the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters.

Critics fear China’s actions could restrict movement in a key waterway for world trade and rich fishing grounds. China says its island construction is mainly for civilian purposes, particularly to increase safety for ships. It has said it won’t interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft.

Mira Rapp-Hooper of the Center for New American Security, a Washington think tank, said the exercises will send a strong message in support of a “rules-based order in Asia” at a time when China’s actions have raised questions about this.

“A reminder in this exercise is that lots of other countries besides the United States have an interest in that international order,” said Rapp-Hooper, who is a senior fellow with the center’s Asia-Pacific Security Program.

The exercises come amid modestly growing European interest in the South China Sea, said David Santoro, a senior fellow for nuclear policy at Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu think tank. “What I’m hearing from the French and to some degree the British, is an increased interest in what’s going on in Asia and how they can help,” Santoro said. As for North Korea, Santoro said Pyongyang would likely be watching but he didn’t think the exercises were intended to send any signal to the country.

Japan, which is sending 50 soldiers and 160 sailors and landing craft, has been investing in amphibious training so it can defend its own islands. Tokyo is particularly concerned China might attempt to take over rocky, uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea that it controls but Beijing claims. Japan calls the islands Senkaku while China calls them Diaoyu. Japan has also expressed an interest in vessels being able to freely transit the South China Sea.

Guam and Tinian are about 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) south of Tokyo. They’re about the same distance to the east from Manila, Philippines.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu.

Spain’s King Felipe VI meets with Japanese Emperor Akihito

April 05, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Spanish King Felipe VI has met with Japanese Emperor Akihito in his first visit to Japan since ascending to the throne. King Felipe walked on a red carpet Wednesday during a welcome ceremony at the Imperial Palace. A group of Japanese children waved both countries’ national flags.

The countries mark their 150th anniversary of bilateral ties next year. The king ascended to the throne in 2014. During his four-day visit, the king and his wife, Queen Letizia, will also meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They are scheduled to visit an earthquake disaster prevention center in Shizuoka, central Japan, before departing on Friday.

Japan and Russia hold talks on security, territorial dispute

March 20, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — The foreign and defense ministers from Japan and Russia met in Tokyo on Monday for the first “two-plus-two” talks since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. The one-day meeting comes as the sides work to end a decades-long territorial dispute that is blocking them from forging a peace treaty. At the same time, Japan, Russia, China and other countries are mulling how best to deal with North Korea’s launches of missiles and its nuclear program.

Plans by the U.S. and its ally South Korea to deploy a state-of-the-art missile defense system known as THAAD, meanwhile, have antagonized Beijing and Russia. Officials on both sides said the talks would largely focus on regional security.

“We will offer our view of the deployment of the U.S. missile defense system in the Pacific region,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said. It said joint efforts in fighting terrorism and drug trafficking were also on the agenda.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida began talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, while Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada will sit down for talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The four ministers will also hold joint talks on international and bilateral issues.

Japan and Russia last held “two-plus-two” talks in November 2013. Meetings were shelved after that due to the crisis in Ukraine, as Japan joined sanctions against Moscow. The Tokyo talks are not expected to lead to a breakthrough on conflicting claims to islands north of Hokkaido — Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets — that came under Russian control after Japan’s defeat in World War II.

A Japanese foreign ministry official said Tokyo would raise concerns over Russia’s installment of surface-to-ship missiles on Etorofu and other military activity elsewhere on the disputed islands, and seek an explanation from Moscow. It does not plan to push harder than that, said the official, who briefed reporters on the condition he not be named.

Japanese officials said the talks would include work on planning a visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Moscow later this year. Logistics of visits by Japanese former residents of the disputed islands will also be addressed, they said.

While the countries remain at odds with no clear way forward in resolving the territorial dispute, they are discussing joint development of fisheries, tourism and other areas that might help bridge the gap.

Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Japan’s defense minister visits Yasukuni after Pearl Harbor

December 29, 2016

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, just back from Pearl Harbor, on Thursday visited a Tokyo shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals. The visit, and one by another Cabinet minister the day before, drew rebukes from neighboring South Korea and China.

Inada accompanied Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his visit this week to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, where he offered condolences to those who died in the Japanese attack there in 1941. Japan’s Asian neighbors harbor bitter memories of the country’s atrocities before and during World War II, when it colonized or invaded much of the region. So visits by top Japanese leaders to the shrine often draw complaints from countries such as China and South Korea that see them as attempts to whitewash that history of wartime aggression.

Abe’s visit to Yasukuni in December 2013 caused such an uproar that he has since instead sent gifts of money and religious ornaments. Japan’s Kyodo News service reported that Abe, who was golfing outside Tokyo, refused comment when asked about Inada’s visit.

The defense minister doffed her shoes on her way into the shrine, and afterward told waiting journalists, “Regardless of differences in historical views, regardless of whether they fought as enemies or allies, I believe any country can understand that we wish to express gratitude, respect and gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives for their countries.”

China’s CCTV news and its official Xinhua News Agency remarked on the visit’s timing. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it was “deplorable” that Inada had visited a shrine that “beautifies past colonial invasions and invasive war and honors war criminals.”

The ministry summoned Kohei Maruyama, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in South Korea, to lodge a protest over the Yasukuni visit. The country’s Defense Ministry expressed “serious concern and regret.”

Inada’s visit was her first since becoming defense minister last summer, though she has regularly visited it in the past. A lawyer-turned-lawmaker with little experience in defense, she is one of Abe’s proteges and backer of his long-cherished hope to revise Japan’s Constitution.

Inada has defended Japan’s wartime atrocities, including forcing many Asian women into sexual servitude in military-linked brothels, and has led a party committee to re-evaluate the judgment of war tribunals led by the victorious Allies.

Her link to a notorious anti-Korea group was acknowledged by a court this year in a defamation case she lost. Inada also was seen posing with the leader of a neo-Nazi group in a 2011 photo that surfaced in the media in 2014. Reports at the time cited Inada as saying she was unaware of his status and did not subscribe to neo-Nazi ideology.

Masahiro Imamura, Japan’s disaster reconstruction minister, went to Yasukuni on Wednesday, also drawing criticism from Beijing.

Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Japan cabinet approves biggest defense budget

Tokyo (AFP)

Dec 22, 2016

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet on Thursday approved Japan’s biggest annual defense budget in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and a territorial row with China.

The Cabinet approved 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) in defense spending for the fiscal year starting in April, up 1.4 percent from the initial budget for the current fiscal year.

It marks the fifth straight annual increase and reflects the hawkish Abe’s attempt to build up Japan’s military, which since World War II has been constitutionally limited to self defense.

Abe, who is pushing revisions to the constitution, strongly backed new security laws that took effect this year making it possible for Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since the end of the war.

Japan is on constant alert against neighboring North Korea which has conducted two underground nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches this year.

Under the new budget, the ministry aims to beef up Japan’s ballistic missile defenses, allocating funds for a new interceptor missile under joint development with the United States.

Also reflected in the spending is Tokyo’s determination to defend uninhabited islets in the East China Sea — administered by Japan as the Senkakus but claimed by China as the Diaoyus.

The ministry said it has allocated funds for increased monitoring operations and to maintain mastery of the air and sea to counter attacks against what it euphemistically described as “island areas” – a reference to the disputed territory.

Separately, the Japan Coast Guard will increase security around the islands by allocating a record 210 billion yen, which includes two new patrol ships and the hiring of 200 more personnel.

In August, Tokyo lodged more than two dozen protests through diplomatic channels claiming that Chinese coast guard vessels had repeatedly violated its territorial waters around the disputed islands.

Also in August, Abe appointed Tomomi Inada, a close confidante with staunchly nationalist views, as his new defense minister. She has in the past been a frequent visitor to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo, which South Korea and China criticize as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Japan has been boosting defense ties with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, some of which have their own disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

The defense budget earmarks funds to dispatch extra personnel to the Philippines and Vietnam to increase gathering and sharing of information.

Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost all of the South China Sea, dismissing rival partial claims from its Southeast Asian neighbors. It also opposes any intervention by Japan.

The defence allocation is part of a record 97.5 trillion yen national budget that will be sent to parliament for debate and approval early next year.

Source: Space War.


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