Japan has unveiled its new Defence Ministry, in a move aimed at playing a greater role in ensuring security in the region. The country has given its Defence Agency, Ministry status and has made the Agency chief, a Minister. The move follows North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests last year. The new Ministry will be able to propose legislation and request an annual military budget. This marks a turnaround for the military, that has kept a low profile since Japan’s World War Two defeat. In the past few years, Tokyo has taken a more active role internationally, sending non-combat troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to continue this trend: “This shows the world how mature Japan has become as a democratic nation. It shows our confidence in civilian control and our firm intention to play an important role in maintaining security in Asia,” he said. Japan’s post war Constitution stops it using force to resolve international disputes. But the upgrading of the Defence Ministry has made Asian neighbours nervous. China has expressed its concern. Its official news agency said the change raised doubts whether the country had learnt its wartime lessons and was able to commit to pacifism.