• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that the government will assess the capabilities needed to protect Japan’s population from the growing military threat posed by North Korea, signaling his intention to accelerate debate early next year on reviewing the nation’s defense guidelines.

“We would like to decide what defense capabilities we should truly have in order to protect our people, rather than simply expanding traditional ones,” Abe said in a speech at the headquarters of Kyodo News in Tokyo.

He also said Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented posture under the war-renouncing Constitution remains an “essential precondition.”

Amid Pyongyang’s continued nuclear and missile tests, Tokyo is leaning toward revising its defense guidelines, which were approved in 2013 and set new targets for the capabilities Japan needed over the next decade. Abe instructed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to review the guidelines immediately after appointing him in August.

The Defense Ministry has requested ¥2.19 billion ($19.5 million) in fiscal 2018 budget to arm the Air Self-Defense Force’s fighter jets with long-range cruise missiles and ¥730 million for a plan to build two land-based Aegis missile shield batteries.

Abe also said Japan is ready to put more pressure on North Korea to stop its weapons development programs, in cooperation with its international peers.

“Continuing to send strong messages under the unity of the international community will have a big impact in forcing North Korea to change its policy,” Abe said.

In September, the U.N. Security Council imposed stricter sanctions on North Korea to limit energy supplies to the country following its sixth and largest nuclear test the same month.

“As three months have passed since their adoption, I believe the sanctions are no doubt having an effect,” he said.

Japan was to chair a UNSC ministerial meeting on North Korea later in the day in New York.

“Japan will continue to take a leading role in international efforts” to address the North Korean issue, he said.

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