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Japan, US agree on changes to defense guidelines

The defense chiefs of Japan and the United States have agreed that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's reinterpretation of Japan's Constitution regarding the right to collective self-defense should be reflected in a review of the bilateral defense cooperation guidelines.

Itsunori Onodera and Chuck Hagel met in Washington on Friday. Onodera explained the July 1st decision by the Abe administration to reinterpret the Constitution to enable Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Hagel said the United States strongly supports the move, as a historic landmark decision. The two agreed that the new defense cooperation guidelines reflecting Japan's decision should be in place by the end of the year.

They also confirmed they will compile an interim report on the review in an effort to increase transparency for the benefit of neighboring countries.

Onodera and Hagel also discussed the security situation in the East and South China seas. China's increased maritime activities are raising tension in these regions.

They agreed that Japan and the US will continue to oppose attempts by any country to change the status quo by force.

In a joint news conference after the talks, Onodera said he had agreed with Hagel that the strengthened Japan-US alliance would lead to regional stability and a stable global economy.

He said the bilateral guidelines will not be compiled with assumptions on specific countries and scenarios.

He expressed hope that the guidelines will permit continuous bilateral cooperation in normal circumstances and emergency situations, including the so-called gray-zone situations, in which infringements of sovereignty would not be considered armed attacks.

Hagel said the Japanese government's bold and historic decision would enable Japan to significantly increase its contribution to regional and global security and expand its role on the world stage.

He also said the revision of the guidelines will allow Japan to participate more fully in such areas as ballistic missile defense, counter-piracy, peacekeeping and a wide range of military exercises.

Onodera also explained the ongoing intergovernmental talks between Japan and North Korea to investigate the fate of Japanese nationals abducted by the North.

The two reaffirmed that Japan and the US will continue to attach importance to the North's nuclear and missile programs and coordinate their responses along with South Korea.

Jul. 11, 2014 - Updated 23:42 UTC