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Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Sunday the Self-Defense Forces must learn to operate in a security environment that has changed greatly over the 30 years since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga delivers a commencement address at a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Sunday. | POOL / VIA KYODO
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga delivers a commencement address at a graduation ceremony at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Sunday. | POOL / VIA KYODO

“Unprecedented challenges and threats may emerge and new missions may be assigned to the SDF,” Suga said at a graduation ceremony speech at the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

“I want you to be willing to try new things and adapt to future changes.”

While explaining to some 500 graduates his belief that significant hurdles will be encountered over the next 30 years, Suga renewed his commitment to solidifying Japan’s security alliance with the United States.

Touching on his planned visit to Washington next month, the prime minister, who also serves as chief commander of the SDF, said, “I am determined to work hard to further strengthen the alliance while deepening my personal relationship of trust with President Joe Biden.”

“No country can protect its own peace and security alone anymore,” he added.

The trip is expected to make Suga the first foreign leader to meet Biden in person since the U.S. president took office in January.

As tensions between the United States and China intensify, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who also attended the ceremony, said, “The security environment is becoming more severe and uncertain as the power balance in the international community shifts dramatically.”

Of the graduates, 53 are female and 23 are from foreign countries, including Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

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