Japan’s prime minister vowed on Sunday to bolster Japan’s defenses alongside the U.S. and its allies as the country hosted another international fleet review to mark the birth of its Naval forces.
The review was held in Sagami Bay near Tokyo with the participation of 18 vessels from 12 nations, including the United States, South Korea, Britain, Australia, Singapore, India, and Thailand, as the region faces increasing tensions from North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and aggression by China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) toward Taiwan.
Speaking at the review, Japan’s centrist Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to bolster the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance amid the “severe” security situation in the East and South China Seas.
Kishida said that North Korea’s repeated missile launches, including one that flew over Japan last month, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, were “absolutely unacceptable” and must not be tolerated.
“We must [be] prepared for the emergence of those who would violate the rules and use force to trample on the peace and security of other countries,” he said during a speech aboard the Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo.
“Japan will formulate a new national security strategy by the end of the year and drastically strengthen its defense capabilities within five years. We are accelerating realistic consideration of what is necessary to protect the public without excluding all options,” he added.
Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party has pledged to double Japan’s defense budget to around two percent of gross domestic product within five years.
He said that Japan will maintain its “post-war peace-loving” stance even as it seeks to strengthen defense capabilities, and provide the international community with a “transparent explanation” of its security initiatives.
“I would like to ask the participants of each country in this forum to strive to explain their security policies in a transparent manner,” Kishida said.
Kishida also inspected the USS Ronald Reagan, a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, where he met with U.S. ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel and senior navy commanders.
Emanuel reaffirmed the U.S.-Japan alliance’s commitment to defending the region against North Korea’s nuclear threats and the CCP’s aggression, according to the U.S. Embassy in Japan.
“What upsets China most is we have allies, they are expansive and extensive,” he said after accompanying Kishida on a tour of the Ronald Reagan.
Japan devoted significant space of this year’s annual defense report to Taiwan stating that Taiwan’s stability is “critical” for its security. The CCP claims Taiwan as its own and has ramped up military pressure against the self-ruled island.
China declined Japan’s invitation to participate in its international fleet review. It had planned to participate in the last parade in 2019 before it was cancelled.
South Korea joined for the first time since 2015, in a sign of thawing relations between the two nations over wartime forced labor disputes.
Japan refused to join South Korea’s fleet review in 2018 after it was asked not to fly its rising sun ensign, which South Korea views as a symbol of Japanese wartime aggression. Japan did not invite South Korea to a planned 2019 review.
Both countries have drawn closer as North Korea ratchets up its missile launches. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Aug. 15 that the improved relations between the two nations are vital as they face “common threats that challenge the freedom of global citizens.”
Reuters contributed to this report.