Japan drops Cold War defence to face new threats

TOKYO,  (Reuters) – Japan unveiled a sweeping update of  its national defence polices yesterday, prescribing a more  flexible posture and refocusing its capabilities as it confronts  China’s military buildup and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  

The National Defence Programme Guideline approved by Prime  Minister Naoto Kan’s cabinet stopped short of easing a ban on  arms exports — a move opposed by a small pacifist party whose  help Kan wants to pass bills in a divided parliament. But it left  the door open to international joint development in the future.  

Under the programme, Japan will allocate 23.49 trillion yen  ($280 billion) for defence spending for the five years from next  April, down 3 percent from a five-year spending cap to March 2010  due to constraints of a public debt twice the size of GDP.
  
The plan will bolster Japan’s defence posture to its  southwest, where it shares a maritime border with China, by  boosting the number of combat aircraft on the southern island of  Okinawa and stationing troops on smaller islands.  

The policy update is the first major revision in six years  and the first under Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Democratic Party,  which swept to power last year for the first time. 
 
Japan’s military, which is bigger than Britain’s, has for  years been pushing the limits of a post-World War Two pacifist  constitution. But any signs Tokyo is further flexing its military  muscle could upset Asian neighbours including China, where bitter  memories of Japan’s wartime aggression run deep.

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