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Prime Minister Abe calls for stronger defenses amid concern over North Korea

AFP-JIJI

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday called for boosting the country’s defenses in the face of North Korean threats, warning that Tokyo needs to be able to protect itself.

Abe has long advocated a stiffening of Japan’s military posture, despite the pacifist nature of the Constitution.

In a speech to senior officers of the Self-Defense Forces, Abe said: “No one else will protect you if you don’t have the mindset of protecting yourself.”

“We have to take all appropriate measures against (incidents such as) North Korea’s missile launch over Japan,” added the prime minister, who said he had asked his defense minister to draw up a blueprint for a medium-term defense strategy.

Abe, who moved quickly after the election of Donald Trump to keep the U.S. president close, said that “strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance is vital” to ensure regional stability.

“We have to deter North Korea’s repeated provocative acts,” he said, noting recent joint drills with the United States in the Sea of Japan and defense cooperation with like-minded countries including Australia.

Abe’s comments come as the U.S. pushes for the United Nations Security Council to vote on harsher sanctions on North Korea.

Diplomats said that a new draft resolution circulated recently is slightly less tough than the original, but includes a “progressive” oil embargo on Pyongyang.

Speaking at the same meeting, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he hoped to quickly introduce Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the maritime Aegis missile-defense system.