Japan’s Abe calls for better cyber and space defence capabilities

Prime Minister says security environment facing the country has become severe and uncertain ‘at a much faster speed’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 7:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 August, 2018, 7:52pm

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday called for strengthening Japan’s defence capabilities in new fields such as cyberspace and outer space, citing the rapidly changing security situation surrounding the country.

“It is impossible to protect our country from every threat if our thinking is limited to conventional categories of land, sea and air,” Abe said during a meeting of a governmental advisory panel on reviewing national defence build-up guidelines.

“It will be especially vital for Japan to maintain an advantage in the new realms,” he said, referring to space and cybersecurity.

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The first meeting of the panel, consisting of defence and diplomatic experts and scholars, was held a day after the Defence Ministry released its annual white paper, which pointed out that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes remained a serious threat to Japan despite the historic summit between the United States and North Korea in June.

The ministry is seeking to compile a revised version of the National Defence programme Guidelines based on debates by the panel and gain the cabinet’s approval by the end of this year.

The guidelines, which were last approved in December 2013, set defence-capability targets that Japan should achieve over the next decade.

In the meeting, Abe said the security environment facing Japan had become severe and uncertain “at a much faster speed” than five years ago.

He has instructed Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera to review the current guidelines in the face of security challenges, including North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missile threats and China’s growing military power.

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The ministry is also planning to work out the Mid-Term Defence programme, which specifies a five-year defence spending and procurement plan, by the end of the year.

The nine-member panel headed by Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is expected to meet every two or three weeks by early December.

The panel members include Ryozo Kato, Japan’s former ambassador to the US; Shigeru Iwasaki, a former chief of staff of the Self-Defence Forces; and Shinichi Kitaoka, a politics scholar and president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.