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U.S. official urges boost to Japanese defense force

WASHINGTON -- A senior U.S. official said Thursday that a decline in Japanese military spending hampers the country’s ability to modernize its defense forces and urged Tokyo to boost defense spending.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alexander Arvizu, in comments before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, also underlined the U.S. commitment to its security relationship with Japan.

Asked by a lawmaker if fears in Japan over nuclear-armed China’s military power could spur Japan to become a nuclear power, Arvizu said that Japan has felt since the end of World War II that the U.S.-Japan alliance is all the protection it needs. “Our security alliance is rock solid,” Arvizu said, adding that he thought it would be even stronger in 50 years.

Arvizu said, however, that a resurgent opposition in Japan’s legislature has produced “challenges” for U.S. policy. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s ruling coalition had to force a bill through Japan’s parliament to revive a U.S.-backed anti-terror mission to refuel ships in the Indian Ocean.

Japan had refueled ships since 2001 in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, but it was forced to abandon the mission in November, when the opposition blocked an extension, saying it violated Japan’s pacifist constitution and lacked the support of the United Nations.

Arvizu noted that the strong opposition in Japan was “democracy at work.”

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