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Advisory panel to be established to step up defense guideline review

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The government plans to set up an advisory panel to push ahead with discussions on reviewing national defense buildup guidelines toward the year-end deadline, according to a governmental source.

    The first meeting of the new panel with members including defense experts and academics could be held Wednesday to discuss strengthening of defense capabilities in outer space, cyberspace and electronic wars, the source said.

    The Defense Ministry aims to compile the revised version of the National Defense Program Guidelines based on their discussions and gain the Cabinet's approval by the end of this year.

    Headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the meeting will be held semimonthly with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and other ministers also to attend, as the government hopes to get endorsement by specialists for controversial projects like the land-based Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense plan.

    The panel members will give advice mainly on how to create cross-functional operations across the Self-Defense Forces branches to deal with potential cyberattacks and electromagnetic weapon assaults, and how to utilize artificial intelligence.

    In 2013 when the Defense Ministry reviewed defense guidelines, it set up an internal committee to make out a draft before submitting a proposal to an advisory panel. Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have criticized it for lacking open and transparent discussions.

    The National Defense Program Guidelines set defense capability targets that Japan should achieve over the next decade. Abe has instructed Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to re-examine the current guidelines approved by the Cabinet in December 2013 amid mounting concerns over North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles and China's military buildup.

    The government is considering installing the U.S.-developed Aegis Ashore system in Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures to strengthen Japan's defenses against potential threats from North Korea but the plan has met opposition from local residents.

    Onodera has said it should be reviewed from the viewpoint of "what we truly need to protect the people, rather than simply building on" existing principles.

    Apart from the guidelines, the ministry also plans to compile a new five-year defense spending and procurement plan by the end of the year.

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