Japan should aim to create a multilateral security alliance in Asia similar to NATO to help counterbalance China's ongoing military buildup, a senior ruling party lawmaker said Thursday.
Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, also told his fellow lawmakers in a speech that Japan should remove its self-imposed ban on the right to collective self-defense, saying he is on the same page with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, noting the revision is "a long-cherished wish."
"It will become necessary for us to have an Asian version of NATO," Ishiba said. "We will likely see a continued rise in China's defense budget, and U.S. influence waning. So we need a balance here in the region with China."
The LDP's No. 2 man made the remarks after meeting earlier with Abe. Ishiba said he discussed the steps toward lifting the ban on the right to collective self-defense after gaining support from New Komeito, the LDP's ruling coalition partner, which is more wary about expanding Japan's regional security role.
Lifting the ban would allow Japan to defend allies under armed attack even when it has not been directly hit. But the issue is divisive, given it would mark a major change in the postwar security framework set up under the war-renouncing Constitution.