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Japanese Gov't Approves Defense Agency Upgrade Bill
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The Japanese government on Friday approved a bill during a Cabinet morning meeting to upgrade the Defense Agency into a ministry and will submit it to the House of Representatives, Kyodo News reported.

The proposed legislation, the first of its kind by the government, passed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party on Wednesday, and went through on Thursday a Security Council meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, government sources said.

As there is little time left in the current Diet session ending on June 18, passage of the bill will be likely in fall when the parliament's next extraordinary session convenes, officials were quoted as saying.

The bill proposes revising a set of laws to upgrade peacekeeping, relief and other international cooperation operations into the Self-Defense Forces' essential duties, and integrate the Defense Facilities Administration Agency into the prospective "Defense Ministry", which would be headed by a minister.

The Defense Agency, established in 1954, has been restricted within Japan's war-renouncing pacifist Constitution. Its main task now is defense of the nation and disaster relief at home.

As an affiliate of the Cabinet Office and with one of the state ministers as its director general, the agency is under the direct control of the prime minister.

(Xinhua News Agency June 9, 2006)


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