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Defense policymakers from 20 countries in the Asia-Pacific region gathered Tuesday in Tokyo to kick off a three-day international forum on regional security.Participants in the Forum for Defense Authorities in the Asia Pacific Region include senior defense officials from China, India, South Korea, Russia, the United States and Japan.The annual meeting, which was started in 1996 by the Defense Agency to exchange views on national defense policies, is also joined by the European Union as an observer. Mongolia became a new participant this year. This year’s forum will mainly discuss how the financial crisis in the Asia-Pacific region has affected, or will affect, the defense policies of the participating nations, agency officials said.In an opening speech, Defense Agency Director General Fukushiro Nukaga said the forum will help participants understand the situation surrounding defense equipment and policies of other nations and thus contribute to stability in the region.Masayuki Tadokoro, a professor at the National Defense Academy, said the region’s severe economic slump will force each country to cut military spending, warning it could destabilize the region without creating an internationally agreed framework. “Smaller spending, per se, will not bring (regional) stability unless the spending cut is institutionalized and acknowledged by neighboring countries,” he said.

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