May 30, 2009 / 11:25 AM / 11 years ago

Nuclear N.Korea won't change Japan defense: minister

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Japan’s defense minister insisted on Saturday it would only use its military for defense, a long-standing position that has been tossed up for debate by Japanese lawmakers as they worry about a nuclear North Korea.

Anxiety over Pyongyang’s intentions, after a nuclear test and a series of missile launches this week, has sparked calls for Japan to develop the capability to strike at enemy bases in the event of an imminent attack, despite its pacifist constitution.

“We will never start an action as such,” Yasukazu Hamada told a meeting of Asian defense ministers in Singapore.

“We have also made clear that we do not use force in order to resolve conflict situations and so whatever the steps we take it will only be for defense.”

The first of 12 high-tech U.S. F-22 fighter jets landed on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Saturday, after U.S. President Barack Obama reassured Prime Minister Taro Aso this week of Washington’s commitment to the defense of its Asian ally. Hamada said Japan was still considering buying more U.S. fighter jets but these would not be for an attack.

“We are of course looking at other procurements such as F-22s etc, but only for the defense of the country as such,” he said. “We have mentioned that North Korea is a threat only because of what has happened in the past.”

After a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his South Korean counterpart, Hamada said North Korea’s test violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and called on the isolated state to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

“We are the only country that has had an atomic attack, and we are very aware of that, and we of course will be making ultimate efforts for anti-proliferation as well as abandonment of nuclear weapons,” Hamada told the Asia Security Conference in Singapore.

The annual meeting, also known as the “Shangri-La Dialogue” after the hotel where it is taking place, brings together defense chiefs and military brass from 27 countries, along with arms dealers and security analysts.

Reporting by Kash Cheong; Writing by Neil Chatterjee; Editing by Bill Tarrant

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