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An Upper House special committee began full-scale debate Monday on bills to implement the updated Japan-U.S. defense guidelines with Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi calling for renewed efforts to seek the understanding of Asian neighbors.

“Considering the course of events in the past, we must sincerely explain and seek understanding (of Asian nations) that the new guidelines are intended to ensure the security of our nation,” Obuchi said before the special committee.

In dealing with China, which has voiced strong concern over the new guidelines, he said that in November he explained and gained a “certain understanding” during his meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

But Obuchi added that he will take every possible opportunity to gain better understanding from Beijing.

Because of Japan’s war history with China, Obuchi stressed the need to explain that the new guidelines are not targeted at any particular nation.

Obuchi made the remarks in response to Shoji Motooka of the Democratic Party of Japan, who urged the prime minister to declare that Japan is not considering China as a hypothetical enemy.

Meanwhile, Yoshinori Ono, a Lower House member of the Liberal Democratic Party, said that examples of “emergency situations in areas surrounding Japan” included in revised bills are intended solely for the sake of example and do not refer to any specific situation.

Ono attended the Upper House session to explain revisions made in Lower House deliberations, which were made based on an agreement among the LDP, its coalition partner Liberal Party and sometimes ally New Komeito.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said that the government shares Ono’s view.

Referring to his recent summit meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton, Obuchi said the U.S. expressed appreciation for the Lower House passage of the defense guideline bills.

“Since the end of the Cold War, the (security) situation in the Northeast Asian region has not been free from problems,” he said. “I believe that we’ve gained certain appreciation (from Washington) for proposing the new defense guidelines bills as a way of tightening the bolt on our security ties and having them passed by the Lower House.”

Hosei Norota, director general of the Defense Agency, pushed aside widely held concerns that the new defense guidelines may force Japan’s engagement in a war waged by the U.S. He stressed that the Self-Defense Forces’ rear-area support will not be integrated with military actions by U.S. forces.

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