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US-Japanese Bilateral Defense Agreement Revision to be Postponed

The planned revision of the Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation is likely to be postponed, the Japan Times reports.

MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) - The planned revision of the Guidelines for Japan-United States Defense Cooperation is likely to be postponed, the Japan Times reports.

The drafting of the new guidelines, which were originally set to be drawn up in October of this year, has been pushed back, possibly until next May, after government sources cited the need to keep the country’s coalition government on track.

Shinzo Abe’s conservative populist Liberal Democratic Party has been challenged by the centrist populist Komeito Party, which is far more cautious about expanding the size and role of the country’s military.

This past June, Prime Minister Abe lifted the ban on deploying Japanese forces abroad, dropped limits on Japanese weapons exports, and made proposals to increase the allowable budget for the country’s military.

The new guidelines include proposals for Japanese military participation in the defense of their ally the US, even in situations where Japan itself is not under threat; for example, by intercepting missiles aimed at US targets and participating in the defense of US ships in international waters.

Limitations on the role of Japan’s military had previously been enforced by Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which states that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes,” and that the military budget may not exceed the “minimum level” necessary for self-defense.

Prime Minister Abe chose to reinterpret the article, instead of attempting to remove it from the constitution via parliamentary vote. Such an alteration to the constitution would require a two-thirds majority, as well as a national referendum.

Abe noted that “Japan’s status as a peaceful country will not change,” but that did not stop thousands of protestors from gathering outside his official residence in late June and early July.

The Japan Times noted that it is unclear whether the US will accept the revised deadline proposal, which will be discussed at an official meeting between the Japanese and White House officials in Washington in October.

Defense experts note that the proposed changes would open the door to offensive missile systems and other hardware, some of which could be purchased from the US, Reuters has reported.

In addition to pacifist sensitivities at home, Japan’s recent moves have worried some of its neighbors, including China and South Korea, who continue to have historical and territorial disputes with the country.

The Chinese media have accused Japan of reviving a militaristic policy, noting that Prime Minister Abe has “drastically changed [Japan’s] defense stance by reinterpreting a war-renouncing constitution...sowing the seeds of instability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet with Prime Minister Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November to discuss economic and security issues.

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