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North Korea threat prompts Japan to rethink security strategy adopted in 2013, add ‘sense of urgency’

Kyodo

Given the rapidly growing threat posed by North Korea, the government is considering revising for the next decade the basic national security plan adopted in 2013, government sources said Wednesday.

The government is mulling revising the plan next year as a view is spreading within the government that the security situation in the region has become more serious than was laid out in 2013, and that “a sense of urgency” should be incorporated in a new planning document.

Through revising the National Security Strategy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government would likely move to bolster Japan’s ballistic missile defense, increase collaboration between the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military, and highlight the two countries’ readiness to deal with contingencies on the Korean Peninsula, the sources said.

The government is also expected to refer to the need to promote cooperation with the United States, Australia and India to achieve “a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” a concept advocated by Abe apparently in response to China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

In referring to the Indo-Pacific region, which covers the vast Asia-Pacific area and extends through the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Africa, Abe has argued that “free and open” maritime order is critically important for the peace and prosperity of the region.

U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for the idea during talks with Abe in Tokyo in November.

Changes in the National Security Strategy would also reflect a forthcoming review of the 2013 defense guidelines, which set the targets for defense capabilities Japan should achieve over the next decade. That review is to take place in the latter half of next year.

Revising the National Security strategy will be led by the National Security Council and foreign and defense ministries.

Tension remains high in the Asia-Pacific region as North Korea shows no signs of abandoning its nuclear weapons or ballistic missile programs, despite international condemnation and wave after wave of crippling economic sanctions.

Last week North Korea successfully test-fired what it described as its new and “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile, capable of hitting anywhere in the United States with a nuclear warhead.

The missile was launched on a very steep trajectory and came down in the Sea of Japan within Japan’s exclusive economic zone that surrounds its territorial waters. Japan has also seen missiles fly over the country into the Pacific Ocean in recent months.