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Japan passes new defense policy package amid regional concerns

The Japanese cabinet approved a defense policy package Tuesday to further expand its military might amid increasing regional concerns about its right-leaning politics and surging nationalism.

The defense package includes the national security strategy, the defense program guidelines and a five-year defense buildup plan that envisions 24.7 trillion yen (240 billion U.S. dollars) of military spending in 2014-2019, a 5-percent increase over the five years ending March 2014.

In the document of national security strategy, the government states Japan will seek more "proactive" security roles for the Self-Defense Forces abroad, and will set new guidelines on arms exports, signaling a major shift from the country's previous restrictive policy.

The strategy also put emphasis on a strong Japan-U.S. security alliance as a counterbalance to security threats to Japan.

The 10-year defense program guidelines and the five-year defense buildup plan, together with the overarching national security strategy, are part of hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's broader drive to raise the country's defense profile.

Since Abe took office, his government has taken an irresponsible approach to Japan's war history by refusing to apologize to its Asian neighbors and trying to revise the country's pacifist constitution.

Japanese politicians' visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 World War II class-A convicted war criminals are enshrined, have angered Japan's neighbors such as China and South Korea.

In September 2012, Japan unilaterally altered the status quo in the East China Sea by announcing a purchase deal of the Diaoyu Islands of China. The move has since led to increased regional tensions and revived concerns about Japan's militaristic past.

[Source: Xinhua, Tokyo, 17Dec13]

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