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Politics

Japan's base strike capability 'necessary': Defense chief Kishi

Minister eyes visit to US and closer cyber and space cooperation

Nobuo Kishi, Japan's new defense minister, spoke with Nikkei and other media outlets on Friday. (Photo by Junnosuke Kobara)

TOKYO -- Developing the capability to strike enemy bases in response to an impending missile launch is "necessary to protect our nation," Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said Friday, weighing in on a possible alternative to the suspended Aegis Ashore system.

The U.S. and Japan "have to confirm our roles and responsibilities" within the alliance, he said in an interview with Nikkei and other outlets. Kishi, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's younger brother, assumed his post last week in Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's new government.

Kishi's appointment comes at a time of major shifts in East Asia's security landscape. The defense ministry has asked for a major increase in spending for fiscal 2021 as it counters the rise of China and North Korea's missile programs. The country is also seeking to bolster its defense capabilities after it halted a deal with Washington for the Aegis Ashore anti-missile system.

The defense minister said he intends to take the opportunity to visit the U.S. when conditions allow with the coronavirus pandemic, and expressed interest in meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Kishi looks to deepen cooperation between the two countries, including in the space and cyber domains, and "further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance," he said.

Asked about Chinese incursions in waters around the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyu, Kishi said they were "extremely regrettable." He said he wants to move forward with discussions on a hotline for emergency communication between high-level Japanese and Chinese defense officials.

Kishi stressed the importance of communication with South Korea, both bilaterally and trilaterally along with the U.S., in light of North Korea's missile program.

"I hope for an appropriate response from the South Korean side," he said, apparently referring to issues including the General Security of Military Information Agreement on intelligence sharing, from which Seoul has threatened to withdraw.

"I want to make arrangements as soon as possible" for a three-way meeting of defense ministers from Japan, South Korea and the U.S., he said.

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