Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida vowed Saturday to enhance his country's defense capabilities in an increasingly severe security environment.

"We will deter emergencies and prevent threats to our country, such as an invasion," Kishida said in a speech at the graduation ceremony for the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka near Tokyo.

He suggested working toward the goals of three key defense documents, including the National Security Strategy, which the government updated in December 2022 to obtain counterstrike capabilities, marking a major shift from Japan's postwar security policy under its war-renouncing Constitution.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a graduation ceremony for the National Defense Academy in Yokosuka near Tokyo on March 23, 2024. (Kyodo)

With China continuing to expand its military activities, Kishida said there are increasing attempts to "unilaterally change the status quo by force," adding Japan is in the "most difficult and complex security environment of the postwar period."

Kishida also referred to the Ukraine crisis saying, "Moves challenging the existing international order are becoming evident."

The ceremony was also attended by Defense Minister Minoru Kihara, who said Japan's next-generation fighter jets, set to be co-developed with Britain and Italy for deployment by 2035, will serve as a "pillar of safety and stability in the world."

He urged the graduates, expected to become senior members of the Self-Defense Forces, to eradicate harassment in the organization.

His remarks followed the case of former SDF member Rina Gonoi, who came forward as a victim of long-term sexual harassment and abuse by colleagues in her unit. A court in December found three of her colleagues guilty of sexual indecency.

Excluding foreign students, 383 graduated from the academy this year, of whom 44 were female.

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