South Korea Says Can’t Accept Japan Boosting Defense Force Reach

South Korea won’t accept the Japanese government’s push to reinterpret its pacifist constitution to broaden the reach of its military in a policy known as collective self defense, Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung Joo told Yonhap News.

Baek told Yonhap that Japan adopting the right to project its forces abroad, even if to aid allies, would cause regional instability. He made the comments after meeting with his Japanese counterpart Masanori Nishi in Seoul today.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for a more flexible interpretation of the constitution as he seeks to respond to threats ranging from China’s growing military muscle to North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and terrorist attacks. South Korea and China, which suffered under the Japanese occupation that ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II, have opposed efforts to strengthen the country’s defense capacity.

“As a sovereign nation it goes without saying that we have the right to collective defense,” Abe said today at a government meeting on the issue in Tokyo. “The international situation surrounding our nation is becoming harsher, with increasing cross-border threats such as terrorism and cyber attacks.”

The U.S., which imposed the pacifist constitution on Japan after the war, favors Abe’s push to develop a more robust defense force.

“From an American viewpoint, it is only common sense that we would welcome Japanese assistance in helping to defend our ships from hostile missile strikes or in joining the United States and others in the international community,” Kurt Tong, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Tokyo, said in speech last month.

Japan’s government has yet to set a date for its decision on the collective self defense issue.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Davis in Hong Kong at abdavis@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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