TOKYO: Three of the four Liberal Democratic Party presidential candidates Friday expressed intentions to strengthen the Japan Coast Guard for the protection of Okinawa Prefecture’s Senkaku Islands, claimed by China.
The three–regulatory reform minister Taro Kono, 58, former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, 64, and former internal affairs minister Sanae Takaichi, 60–called for beefing up the JCG in a policy debate session hosted by the ruling LDP ahead of Wednesday’s election to select the successor to outgoing President Yoshihide Suga, the country’s prime minister.
“I would consider revising coast guard-related laws if needed so that the Self-Defense Forces will stay ready to respond to contingencies,” Kono said.
Takaichi showed concern about a new law in China that authorizes Chinese coast guard vessels to use weapons against foreign vessels considered by Beijing to be violating its sovereignty.
“I definitely want to revise the (Japanese) coast guard law,” she said.
The Chinese coast guard has been increasingly improving its equipment, Kishida said. “It is very important for the JCG to enhance its equipment,” he added.
The other candidate, LDP Executive Acting Secretary-General Seiko Noda, 61, only said that Japan needs to make minor adjustments to its marine patrol system.
Meanwhile, all four candidates welcomed Taiwan’s application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal with 11 members including Japan.
Kono said he would be “very happy” if Taiwan joins by clearing the high standards of liberalization under the TPP.
While hailing Taiwan’s TPP bid, Kishida underlined a need to check calmly whether Taiwan can meet the high standards.
Takaichi said she will spare nothing to help Taiwan gain TPP membership. Noda also expressed her eagerness to support Taiwan.
On Wednesday, Taiwan announced its bid to join the TPP, drawing a fierce protest from China, which last week announced its application for TPP membership.
At a joint press conference last week, Kishida and Noda showed a cautious stance toward China’s TPP participation, while Noda said Beijing’s TPP membership should be considered positively. Kono remains unclear about the issue.