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Japan's Abe realigns military, cautions China

Prime Minister Abe has indicated that Japan will not remain passive as China flexes its military muscle in Asia. Abe has expressed his desire to increase Japan's role in the region.

In an address to the Japanese military on Sunday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made comments aimed at China that his country would not tolerate the use of force as a means of shaping the regional landscape.

"We will express our intention as a state not to tolerate a change in the status quo by force," Abe said. "We must conduct all sorts of activities such as surveillance and intelligence for that purpose."

Japan and China have engaged in a diplomatic dispute over islands in the East China Sea in recent months.

Both countries - and Taiwan, as well - lay claim to the islands. Japanese and Chinese patrol ships sail near the islands, and aircraft from both countries pass overhead.

Jets deployed?

Japanese media have claimed that the country has twice this weekend scrambled jets as Chinese aircraft approached its airspace. There has been no official confirmation of these reports.

A recent report also indicated that Japan was preparing measures to shoot down Chinese drones if they violated the country's airspace - a move that drew the ire of Beijing.

"If Japan takes enforcement measures such as shooting down aircraft, as it says it will, that would constitute a serious provocation, an act of war of sorts, and we would have to take firm countermeasures, and all consequences would be the responsibility of the side that caused the provocation," read a statement on the Chinese Defense Ministry website from spokesman Geng Yansheng on Saturday.

Abe's speech to troops was part of a regular military review. He called upon the troops to be prepared to expand their role in defending Japan should the need arise.

"The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. This is the reality," Abe told the military. "You will have to completely rid yourselves of the conventional notion that just the existence of a defense force could act as a deterrent."

In an interview published Saturday in The Wall Street Journal, Abe said Japan had become too "inward-looking" over the past 15 years, and that teh country was ready to "contribute more to making the world a better place."

One way to do that, the article added, would be to act as a counterweight to China in Asia.

mz/ipj (Reuters, AFP)