Japan Can Make Korea Understand Goal to Boost Defense, Suga Says

The Japanese government can make South Korea understand its plan to increase the reach of its defense forces, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, after a senior Korean official called the goal unacceptable.

“Japan and South Korea are important neighboring countries for each other, so we should explain our national security policy,” Suga told journalists in Tokyo today. “If we explain that, they will understand our idea.”

South Korea won’t accept the Japanese government’s push to reinterpret its pacifist constitution to allow its defense forces to support an ally under attack, Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung Joo told Yonhap News yesterday. Baek told Yonhap that such a change -- which Japan has called collective self-defense -- would cause regional instability.

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 yesterday 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 maintains bases in Japan, imposed the pacifist constitution on the country after the war and now supports Abe’s effort to reinterpret it.

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