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Japan should adopt comprehensive legislation to deal with armed conflicts in neighboring areas and continue to watch military trends in North Korea and China, according to the 1997 Defense White Paper.

The white paper was released July 15 and addresses a wide range of defense matters. If an emergency does occur, according to the report, refugees are likely to flood into Japan seeking asylum, transportation would be required to evacuate Japanese overseas, and mines may obstruct sea lanes and Japan’s territorial waters.

Since 1977, the Defense Agency has studied legal measures that would be needed for the Self-Defense Forces to deal flexibly with such emergencies and it hopes to use the results to push through what it sees as necessary legislation. The white paper adds, however, that it would require strong political motivation to enact any such legislation.

Pinpointing deficiencies in national defense and safety, the paper urges the government to set up a civil defense network in cooperation with the public and with local governments to deal with relief activities, evacuations and disasters. Even though the Cold War has ended, instability and uncertainty continue to dog the Asia-Pacific region, the report says.

Besides possible regional flash points such as the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and the disputed Russian-held islands north of Hokkaido, the white paper points out that Japan must deal with ongoing disputes over Takeshima Island, known in South Korea as Tok-do, and the Senkaku islands, which China and Taiwan also claim.

Japan must pay the “closest attention” to North Korea’s “exclusivist” regime, the report says, pointing to such recent events as the defection of Hwang Jang Yop Hang, a close adviser to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the appointment of Deputy Premier Hong Son Nam as acting premier and the death of defense chief Choe Kwang.

North Korea’s alleged efforts to develop long-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons pose a serious destabilizing threat to East Asia, and Japan is deeply concerned about the progress the Stalinist state is making in its development of missiles, the report says.

Japan must also continue to keep a close eye on the military situation in the Russian Far East because the political and economic situation of the former communist state remains opaque, it adds. Numerous Asia-Pacific countries are also taking advantage of their rapid economic growth to expand and modernize their military capabilities, the report says.

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