Japan's Abe stepping up military agenda

Japan's Abe stepping up military agenda
A South Korean protester is stopped by policemen as he chants slogans denouncing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in front of the official residence of the Japanese ambassador in Seoul on Friday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pressing ahead with his long-time goal of removing constitutional restrictions on a military buildup, despite worldwide criticism over his visit last week to the Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead, analysts said.

The steps Abe will take may include allowing Japanese armed forces to join other countries in patrolling maritime routes on the high seas - a move currently unconstitutional - and engaging US help to eliminate procedural obstacles to rewriting Japan's pacifist Constitution, according to Tokyo's policy insiders.

Shinichi Kitaoka, a former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations and a key security adviser to Abe, told leading Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun on Sunday that the "right to collective self-defence" - illegal under the existing official interpretation of Japan's Constitution - should be allowed, to enable Japanese Self-Defence Forces to participate in joint patrols safeguarding the "sea lanes" for crude oil shipping.

Joint patrols along high-sea routes - spanning from the Middle East via the South China Sea to Japan - are part of the "proposal summary" of a key governmental security policy consulting panel, said Kitaoka, acting president of the advisory panel.

Zhang Boyu, deputy director of the Department of Japanese Politics at the Institute of Japan Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Abe and his Cabinet will not give up on revising the Constitution.

"Abe's ultimate goal is to overthrow the pacifist Constitution, and future procedural steps will be taken little by little to make the law exist only nominally," Zhang said.

The topic on enabling collective self-defence was not played down after Abe on Thursday became the first sitting Japanese prime minister in years to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 class-A war criminals from World War II.

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