- Title: JAPAN: Japan air force flexes muscle at air show
- Date: 20th October 2008
- Summary: (L!2) OMITAMA, IBARAKI PREFECTURE, JAPAN (OCTOBER 19, 2008) (REUTERS) FIGHTER JET PLANE DOING ACROBATICS IN AIR PLANE FLYING CLOSE TO THE GROUND PEOPLE WATCHING JAPANESE SELF-DEFENCE AIR SHOW FIGHTER JET PLANE TAKING OFF AND FLYING PAST INTO CLOUDS
- Embargoed: 4th November 2008 12:00
- Location: Japan
- Country: Japan
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVA9FFAHZXSUK3I7YCJHFR4W1P0D
- Story Text: Japan's air force puts on an air show to highlight its defence capabilities, as it worries about the nuclear missile threat from North Korea.
Japan showed off some of its military might over the skies on Sunday (October 19) as the nation grows increasingly weary of its neighbours in the region.
Japan's annual defence report released in September said Japan needed to remain vigilant of China's growing military power, expressed caution about Russia's military activities around Japan and referred directly to a nuclear missile threat from North Korea.
"It is absolutely vital that we secure our own safety to maintain the peace, preserve our independence and ensure our nation's development and prosperity," Prime Minister Taro Aso told some 5,000 self-defence Forces personnel at an annual military show held at Air self-defence Force Hyakuri Base in Omitama, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo.
Japan is also in the midst of formulating a new defence policy to underline the need of the rapidly changing regional security situation.
The outline, which spells out basic guidelines for Japan's defence policies, is reviewed by the government once every five years and had been revised in 1995 and in 2004 to meet changes in the international military environment, Japan's largest newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported earlier this year.
The government initially planned to make only minor changes to the 2004 defence policy outline in the next fiscal year beginning in April 2009, the paper added, without citing sources.
But it decided to set up a new policy outline to signal more clearly the need for Japan to develop its defence capability amid China's military build-up, Russia's border activities and North Korea's continuing nuclear saga.
However on the North Korean front, Aso now especially needs to look tough on the emotive dispute over the abductees with Pyongyang as an election looms closer and Tokyo finds its position undermined by the U.S. delisting of North Korea government from a terrorism blacklist.
Japan's tough stance on the feud has led to a divide between Tokyo and its partners in six-way talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear programme, including South Korea, which has urged Japan to help provide energy aid for the North.
Aso, who has expressed his dissatisfaction with Washington's delisting, vowed to stick to Tokyo's insistence on a comprehensive resolution to the abductees dispute as well as Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.
The plight of abductees, snatched from their homeland in the 1970s and 1980s to help train North Korean spies, has grabbed huge media attention in Japan ever since North Korea admitted in 2002 that its agents had abducted 13 Japanese.
For the Japanese public, North Korea is indeed the biggest security issue in the region.
"We have security issues to be concerned about these days, including North Korea. We've got to get our act together," said 46-year-old public servant Yuji Watanabe told Reuters on Sunday after the air force show.
"Other countries are more impressive than Japan. I mean, they've got missiles and all. So I think we've got to defend ourselves otherwise we'll be invaded and it won't be good for the people of this nation," added 60-year-old housewife Yasuko Takahashi.
However many Japanese are also weary that a powerful Japanese military will send the wrong signals to their neighbours.
"I think foreign nations are concerned about the historic context (of Japan's military), but that is only a perception they have. If they saw how we lived these days they would understand that we are a peaceful nation and I think that point needs to get across more often," said Yoshiro Atsunaga, a 58-year-old employee of a food manufacturer.
But this year's air force show however was not a full display of Japanese military might.
General Toshio Tamogami said the force was downsized compared to the last time it held the show in 2005 to save on fuel costs.
The number of airplanes taking part were reduced to 82 from 117, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported.
Officers of the Defence Ministry's Air Staff Office said it is difficult to immediately calculate how much fuel has been saved by downsizing Sunday's review but the event itself cost the government 126 million yen (1.23 million U.S. dollars), excluding the fuel costs.
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