WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Abe said Wednesday he would like the newly revised security alliance with the United States to cover the Indian Ocean as well as the Asia-Pacific region.
Abe, who is currently visiting the United States, made the remark a day after he and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke about the importance of the guidelines, which would ease restrictions on the Self-Defense Forces when it comes to conducting operations with the U.S. military overseas.
“With Japan and the United States joining hands, we want to ensure peace and stability in an area ranging from the Asia-Pacific to the Indian Ocean,” Abe told an event in Washington.
Abe indicated the security environment surrounding Japan had become increasingly serious, in an apparent reference to China’s growing assertiveness in and around the East and South China Seas.
Lawmakers in Abe’s ruling bloc are deliberating on draft bills that, if passed, would reduce constraints on SDF activities.
The bills would include the option of fighting for an ally when Japan is not directly under attack.
In a contentious move last year, the ruling coalition reinterpreted war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, laying the groundwork for Japan to end a decades-old, self-imposed ban on exercising the right to collective self-defense.
Abe said he wanted to ensure that the Diet, which is dominated by his Liberal Democratic Party, will pass the relevant bills “by this summer” so the country can deal with a greater range of incidents that could affect the country’s security but that stop short of military attacks on Japan.
The bills have yet to be submitted to the legislature.
Japan and the United States revised their joint defense cooperation guidelines on Monday for the first time in 18 years.
Under the new rules, the SDF can protect U.S. ships when both countries engage in an operation to intercept a possible ballistic missile, and can come to the aid of another military that’s under attack by armed groups, Abe said.