Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe kept up his push for an expanded role for the country’s defense forces today after members of his usually cohesive coalition expressed doubts.
“I will seek to rebuild security policy based on realism,” he said at the graduation ceremony for the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka. A U.S. vessel “could come under attack in international waters near Japan while guarding against a missile attack. Is it really all right for Japan to be unable to do anything at such a time?”
Abe referred in his speech to continuing provocations in the southwest of the country, where Chinese and Japanese vessels tail one another around uninhabited islands claimed by both nations. Faced with China’s rising military prowess, Abe has increased the defense budget for two years running and is seeking to strengthen Japan’s alliance with the U.S.
Allowing Japanese troops to defend allies will entail changing the long-standing interpretation of the pacifist constitution, a move rejected by some in Abe’s coalition.
“Anything that risks infringing on pacifism should be treated with caution beyond caution,” lawmaker Seiichiro Murakami of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party told reporters earlier this month.
Abe on Thursday said rebuilding Japan’s economy remains his cabinet’s top priority, speaking at a press conference.