Japan's Shinzo Abe outlines plans to bolster defence capabilities
Prime minister says that the nation is now facing an increasingly insecure regional environment
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged yesterday to push forward with his plans to bolster Japan's defence in the face of what he said was an increasingly insecure environment.
In a speech opening a new session of parliament, Abe said he would establish a security council within his office that would be a diplomatic and defence command centre, a move parliament was expected to approve during the session.
The ruling party also hopes to pass a companion bill protecting state secrets, legislation supporters say is necessary as Japan seeks greater co-operation with others in international security.
In the longer term, Abe wants to allow Japanese troops to fight when its allies are attacked - a reversal of the stance of previous governments - by reinterpreting the war-renouncing Article 9 of Japan's pacifist constitution.
Japan has been locked in a row with China over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu, on Senkaku, islands that both nations claim.
"As global interdependency deepens, Japan can no longer protect its own peace without actively fulfilling its responsibility to global peace and stability," Abe said. Japan should be proud to have been a pacifist state since the end of the second world war, but it was time to be realistic, he said.
"We must act now in order to protect peace into the future," Abe added.
Critics say the state-secrets legislation may infringe on the constitutional right to know and on Japan's free press, and could further limit access to public information, for which Japan is already criticised.
Japan's parliament is returning from a recess that followed a sweeping upper house election victory by Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party in July.
It gave his coalition bloc the majority in both houses, lowering hurdles for the passing of key legislation. However, some of the security bills may take time to pass, as the party needs support from its pacifist-leaning coalition partner, New Komeito.