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Japan To Set Up National Security Center

A Lower House panel of the Japanese Parliament on Monday began deliberating bills aimed at establishing a national security command center in the context of the security environment around the country getting increasingly unstable.

The bills call for regular meetings of Foreign and Defense Ministers and the Chief Cabinet Secretary chaired by the Prime Minister. It also seeks to set up a national security office on the model of the U.S. National Security Council, reports the NHK public broadcaster.

At the first meeting of the parliamentary panel on Monday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged the members to get the bills enacted as soon as possible as the security environment surrounding Japan was becoming increasingly unstable.

He said it was vital that regular forums with the Prime Minister be established to discuss security issues and responses as such forums would enable the Premier to take strong political leadership on national security.

Suga said the head of the national security office would be in charge of administrative affairs, whereas the chief of the command center would advise the Prime Minister directly and the two would closely coordinate in supporting him.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will decide whether or not to assign one person to both posts, which will be open to the private sector also, Suga said.

Addressing an annual review of Self-Defense Force personnel in Asaka in Saitama prefecture on Sunday, Abe said he planned to proceed with building a legal structure that suited the difficult security environment around his country.

He said Japan needed to constantly pursue the best possible security policies and the control tower would be the proposed National Security Council.

He said he planned to go ahead with debates on whether Japan could exercise its right to collective self-defense and participate in collective U.N. security operations.

Meanwhile, the country's Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has been considering deployment of unmanned helicopters to step up its surveillance around the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

The strategic and resource-rich islands are controlled by Japan, but claimed by China and Taiwan. The Japanese government maintains that the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory in terms of history and international law. Chinese vessels and aircraft have been expanding their activities in the area in recent years.

The MSDF currently uses manned helicopters based on board destroyers to monitor the area. But these aircraft can fly for only about three hours before returning to refuel putting burden on the pilots.

The U.S. Navy is planning to put into use about 160 MQ8 unmanned surveillance helicopters which can stay airborne for up to eight hours at a time. The MSDF will also see whether the remote-controlled aircraft can land on its ships safely, reports said.

by RTT Staff Writer

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