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Japanese PM urges stronger defence amid North Korean worries

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Japan\'s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering speech at a gathering of Self-Defence Force senior officers at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo on Monday.

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 AFP, Tokyo :
Japan's prime minister on Monday called for a boost to the country's defences in the face of North Korean threats, warning that Tokyo needs to be able to protect itself.
The call is a common refrain from nationalist leader Shinzo Abe, who has long advocated a stiffening of Japan's military posture, despite its officially pacifist constitution. In a speech to senior officers of the Self-Defense Forces - Japan's name for the military - Abe said: "No one else will protect you if you don't have the mindset of protecting yourself."
"We have to take all appropriate measures against (incidents such as) North Korea's missile launch over Japan," added the premier, who said he had asked his defence minister to draw up a blueprint for Japan's medium-term defence strategy. Abe, who moved quickly after the election of Donald Trump to keep the mercurial US president close, said that "strengthening the Japan-US alliance is vital" to ensure regional stability.
"We have to deter North Korea's repeated provocative acts," he said, noting recent joint drills with the United States in the Sea of Japan and defence cooperation with like-minded countries including Australia. Abe's comments come as the US pushes for the United Nations Security Council to vote on harsher sanctions on North Korea.
Diplomats said that a new draft resolution circulated recently is slightly less tough than the original but includes a "progressive" oil embargo on Pyongyang. Speaking at the same meeting, Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said he hoped to quickly introduce Aegis Ashore, a land-based version of the maritime Aegis missile-defence system.
Japan backed a U.S. push for the United Nations Security Council to vote Monday on fresh sanctions against North Korea, saying that Kim Jong Un's nuclear program poses the most serious threat since World War II.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Sunday urged tougher sanctions including curbing oil supplies to North Korea. He warned that the regime's advances in missile technology are complicating Japan's ability to intercept them.
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"Japan's security environment including North Korea is increasingly grave-perhaps it's the most serious state in the post-war period," Onodera told public broadcaster NHK. "If North Korea-bound oil, mainly coming from China, decreases through pressure by the international community, it will be difficult for North Korea to operate its missile brigades."
President Donald Trump's administration is pushing the Security Council to adopt a united stance as Kim gets closer to being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. China and Russia, which can veto any UN measures, have expressed skepticism that tough sanctions will stop North Korea's nuclear push and have pushed for peace talks.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel told German media outlet Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that she would "say yes immediately" if asked to participate in a diplomatic initiative to end North Korea's nuclear program. Germany took part alongside five UN veto powers in negotiations to restrain Iran's nuclear program.
The U.S. has warned that time is running out to act. North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb last Sunday, which it said was a hydrogen device. South Korea has detected moves that indicate it may soon launch another intercontinental ballistic missile.

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