Japan launches new counter terrorism force

Japan launches new counter terrorism force

Japan launches new counter terrorism force

Updated 31 March 2012, 1:50 AEDT

Japan has launched a new, elite military unit to counter terrorism and assist with the country's growing defence role overseas.

The 3,200-strong "Combat Readiness Force" was formed some two months after officially pacifist Japan created its first fully-fledged defence ministry since World War II.

The force will include specialists on biochemical weapons and a sub-unit, to be operational by March next year, that can be deployed to face terrorist attacks against Japanese cities.

It will also train troops on peace-keeping missions and serve as an advance team for deployments overseas.

Japan in January upgraded overseas operations to consider them a core mission of the armed forces.

Deployments abroad had earlier been considered "extraordinary," meaning that each one needed parliamentary approval.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's cabinet on Tuesday approved the first deployment since the change, sending a handful of defence personnel to help monitor the cease-fire ending Nepal's civil war.

Mr Abe has sought a larger military role for Japan and wants to rewrite the pacifist constitution imposed by the United States after World War II.

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