Japan's conservative government upgraded the Defense Agency to a full
ministry on Tuesday for the first time since World War II, in line with Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe's push to give the military a greater profile.
The upgrading of the Defense Agency, formerly under the Cabinet Office,
passed Parliament last month without significant opposition, propelled by deep
concern in Japan over North Korean missile and nuclear weapons development.
|Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe (C) reviews troops during a ceremony marking the Defence
Agency being upgraded to a ministry, at Defence Ministry in Tokyo
January 9, 2007.
At a formal ceremony Tuesday, Defense Agency chief Fumio Kyuma was named
defense minister and then took the reins of a new ministry with greater
budgetary powers and prestige. The enhancement is a reversal for a military
establishment that has kept a low profile since being discredited by Japan's
disastrous wartime defeat.
Abe and Kyuma marked the occasion by reviewing a Japanese honor guard on the
parade grounds outside the new ministry. Also in attendance were military
representatives from tens of countries, including U.S. Marine Corps Maj.
Gen. Timothy Larsen, deputy commander for U.S. Forces Japan.
"I'm truly proud today on this occasion as the prime minister to have
inaugurated a Defense Ministry - an organization with the responsibility
for defense that is a nation's inalienable sovereign right," Abe said.
Some critics have argued, however, that giving the military greater leeway
violates the country's 1947 U.S.-drafted Constitution, which foreswears Japan
from using force to settle international disputes. Tokyo maintains a military
ostensibly for self-defense only and still hosts some 50,000 U.S. troops at
bases around the country under a security alliance.