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Abe Sees More Assertive Japan Across Entire World

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo courtesy AFP.

Japan could ask US to lift stealth ban: report
Tokyo (AFP) April 22 - Japan is considering asking Washington to lift a current ban on exporting US stealth fighters so it can buy the high-tech aircraft, a press report said Sunday. The defence ministry may want the radar-evading F-22As after acquiring cheaper upgraded F-15FX fighters, Kyodo News reported. These fighters would replace Japan's ageing fleet of F-4s to be scrapped beginning in April 2008, the report said, quoting sources close to the matter.

The acquisition of the state-of-the-art fighters is aimed at boosting Japan's air defence in the face of North Korea's nuclear arms threat and improving joint operations with the US air force, it said. Japan's current five-year military plan calls for the purchase of seven planes to replace the F-4s by March 2010. The total procurement cost for Japan's next-generation mainstay fighters is estimated at one trillion yen (8.4 billion dollars), sources said.

Although the export of the F-22A, codenamed as the Raptor, is currently banned by the US Congress, Japanese defence officials believe the ban will be lifted in the future, Kyodo said. Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma said in an interview published Saturday he would ask for information on advanced fighters when he meets his US counterpart Robert Gates in Washington on April 30. "Information must be made available to us for the selection of aircraft," Kyuma said. "I want to convey this feeling to the US side."

by Maxim Kniazkov
Washington (AFP) April 22, 2007
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, in remarks published Sunday, that he expected his country to be playing a more assertive security role throughout "the entire world" -- and have a new constitution to back this ambition.

The comments, made to The Washington Post newspaper and Newsweek magazine, came ahead of Abe's visit to the United States and his Camp David summit this coming week with President George W. Bush.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a broad range of international and bilateral issues, including plans by the Abe government to rewrite the country's pacifist post-World War II constitution to cast off many of the restrictions it places on the country's military.

"I think it is the responsibility of anyone involved in politics to always think of what Japan can do to contribute more to the peace and stability not just of Japan and the region but of the entire world," Abe said in the interview.

Japan has already deployed and pulled out 600 troops from Iraq, where they took part in rebuilding the relatively peaceful southern region of Muthanna.

The mission marked the first time since World War II that Japanese troops had been deployed to a country amid a full-fledged conflict.

The second-largest UN contributor after the United States, Japan has also joined eight UN peacekeeping operations -- from Cambodia to the Golan Heights -- and now has about 5,700 personnel involved in them.

In addition, Tokyo sent troops to Thailand and Indonesia to help them recover from the 2004 tsunami.

Meanwhile this year, Japan converted its defense agency into a formal ministry of defense, a move that was interpreted by many as a clear indication of the Abe government's intent to free itself from some of the shackles of the post-war, US-authored constitution.

When asked about his plans, the prime minister said there were provisions in the constitution "that no longer suit the times."

"The security environment surrounding Japan and the entire world has undergone major change," he explained. "There has been proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the fight against terrorism and regional conflicts arising here and there."

The United States and other members of the international community, Abe added, also expected Japan to make increasing contributions to "various international challenges."

He said the new basic law "should reflect the shape of the country we consider desirable in the 21st century."

Despite concerns by some key Asian nations, the Bush administration has repeatedly encouraged Japan to play a more active military role outside its borders.

When they meet here later this week, Bush and Abe are expected to also discuss implementation of a recent agreement with North Korea that compels the Communist state to abandon its fledgling nuclear weapons arsenal in exchange to international energy aid.

Japan is also pressing Pyongyang to free 17 Japanese nationals, who were abducted by North Koreans in the 1970s and are now used to teach the Japanese language and culture to members of the North Korean intelligence services.

Abe said he had already discussed this matter by telephone with Bush, and the two allies already have their strategy on the issue "fully coordinated."

"To the extent that the issue remains unresolved, there will be no normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and North Korea, and therefore there will be no attainment of the objectives of the six-party talks," the Japanese prime minister warned.

Japan, he added, will not participate in energy assistance for North Korea, if there is no progress on the abduction issue.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russia Downbeat Ahead Of NATO Talks
Moscow (AFP) April 17, 2007
Russia said Tuesday it was "not optimistic" its concerns over a planned US missile defense system would be taken into account as the United States said it had new proposals for cooperating with Moscow on the scheme. "We hope, although I will say sincerely that I am not optimistic, that Washington will listen to our analyses and worries," Igor Ivanov, head of the Russian national security council, said ahead of Russian talks with NATO on the missile system in Brussels on Thursday.

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