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UPDATED: 11:26, June 08, 2006
Japanese government to approve Defense Agency upgrade bill
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The Japanese government is slated to approve on Friday a bill to upgrade the Defense Agency into a ministry, Kyodo News said.

The proposed legislation, the first of its kind by the government, will first go through on Thursday a Security Council meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and then be put forward onto a Cabinet meeting on Friday, government sources said.

As there is little time left in the current Diet session which ends 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 upgrading peacekeeping, relief and other international cooperation operations into the Self-Defense Forces' essential duties, and integrating 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.

Source: Xinhua

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