Japan’s hawkish new defence minister singled out North Korean provocations and Chinese use of “force” in territorial disputes as she reviewed troops on her first day in the job.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed Tomomi Inada, a close confidante with staunchly nationalist views, on Wednesday just hours after North Korea fired a test missile that landed in Japanese-controlled waters for the first time.
“North Korea is repeating militarily provocative acts such as nuclear testing and a series of ballistic missile launches,” Inada told troops after performing a ceremonial review.
Her appointment also came after Japan sharply criticised China in an annual defence white paper earlier this week, warning its aggressive stance in territorial disputes risks sparking unintended conflict.
“China has rapidly become active in waters and airspace surrounding (Japan) and it continues its attempt to change the status quo through force,” Inada said.
The comments were an apparent critique of the Asian giant’s reinforcement of reefs and rocks in the South China Sea claimed not just by Beijing but also several Southeast Asian countries. Japan is also embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute with Beijing over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Inada, a four-term lawmaker, has made frequent visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni war shrine, seen by China and South Korea as a symbol of Japan’s early 20th century colonialism and militarism.
The 57-year-old’s views include a desire to make changes to Japan’s US-imposed constitution that renounces the right to wage war. She wrote in 2011 that Japan — the only country in the world to suffer atomic bomb attacks — should consider acquiring nuclear weapons.
Asked yesterday whether she planned to visit Yasukuni on August 15, the anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, she declined to give a straight answer, saying that such a decision is a “matter of the heart”. But she also told reporters that Japan “should not consider arming itself with nuclear weapons at this moment”.
In 2014, Inada and Sanae Takaichi, who was retained by Abe on Wednesday as internal affairs minister, were seen in separate photographs standing next to the leader of a Japanese neo-Nazi party.
Spokesmen for both lawmakers acknowledged at the time that the photographs were genuine and had been taken in their offices over the previous few years, but denied any political affiliation.
According to a Kyodo News Agency poll taken this week, 43.0 per cent of respondents opposed Inada’s appointment as defence minister, while 32.1 percent supported it.