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Japan's defense chief stresses need for regional cooperation against threats

All News 23:18 September 09, 2020

By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (Yonhap) -- Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono highlighted the need to enhance regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region Wednesday, shortlisting North Korea and China as threats to Japan, as well as other like-minded countries in the region.

"China has been increasing their defense spending quite drastically in (the) last 30 years," Taro said, noting China's defense spending jumped 44 times over the cited period.

"On top of that, we see North Korea. North Korea is developing the missile capability quite drastically. We need to be (paying) much more attention to their intentions," said the Japanese defense chief in a webinar hosted by Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies.

This image from the website of the Center for Strategic & International Studies shows Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono (R) speaking in a webinar hosted by the Washington-based think tank on Sept. 9, 2020. (Yonhap)

The Japanese defense minister noted his country had sought to deploy Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system in the midst of North Korean missile launches prior to the first U.S.-North Korea summit in June 2018.

Tokyo recently withdrew that plan for safety reasons, he said.

Instead, he stressed the importance of joint capacity building by like-minded countries, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

"In order to check Chinese expansion. I think we need to force China to pay some cost when they are violating international rules, international norms," Taro said.

"And in order to do that, the United States alone cannot do it. The U.S. and Japan alone cannot do it. I think we need to work with global community. So a larger regional mechanism, or global mechanism would be necessary," he told the virtual conference from Japan.

His remark comes amid an effort by the U.S. to expand and institutionalize what is known as the Quad -- Australia, Japan, India and the U.S. -- that is at the center of Washington's Indo-Pacific initiative designed to counter China's growing presence in the region and throughout the globe.

"You know the strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not inclusive enough, and so there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalize a structure like this," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said earlier, while extending the U.S. invitation to three countries -- Vietnam, New Zealand and South Korea.

The Japanese defense minister opposed the idea of institutionalizing the Quad or Quad Plus, at least for now.

"I don't think we need to do it like, you know, soon. I think we are, we have (a) very good working relationship," he said, noting the future of the envisioned group will partly depend on how regional dynamics change in the post COVID-19 era.

"If situation requires us to make something more concrete, then we must take some steps towards it. If things subside, we don't have to go that far. So a lot of things will depend (on) what's going to happen next year, year after and COVID-19 subside and people start traveling again," he added.


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