North Korea is Japan’s greatest threat since WWII, says Abe

‘I will protect lives and peaceful living in any situation,’ says prime minister

Abe’s government approved a record budget last month, with defence outlays rising for a sixth year. Photograph: AP

Abe’s government approved a record budget last month, with defence outlays rising for a sixth year. Photograph: AP

 

Japan is facing its most perilous security situation since the second World War due to North Korea’s “unacceptable” provocations, prime minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday.

Tension in the region has been rising, particularly since North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test in September, and said in November it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is at its severest since World War II. I will protect the people’s lives and peaceful living in any situation,” Abe told a recent news conference.

He also said Japan would take new steps to strengthen its defence but did not go into specifics.

The government approved a record military budget last month with defence outlays due to rise for a sixth year, increasing by 1.3 per cent to 5.19 trillion yen (€38.2 billion). The biggest item is 137 billion yen (€1 billion) to reinforce defences against North Korean ballistic missiles.

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said this week the US heard North Korea might be preparing to fire another missile.

Abe said: “It is absolutely unacceptable that North Korea is trampling the strong desire of Japan and the rest of the international community for peaceful resolutions, and continuing with its provocative behaviour.”

Abe also wants to amend Japan’s pacifist constitution with the aim of loosening constraints on the military, imposed after Japan’s second World War defeat, but the public is divided.

War-renouncing Article 9 of the constitution, if read literally, bans the existence of standing armed forces but has long been interpreted to allow a military for exclusively defensive purposes.

The Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition retained its two-thirds “super majority” in an October election, energising Abe’s push to revise the constitution. – Reuters