Japan to help East Asian nations counter Chinese threat

31 May 2014

Japan will play an increasing role in regional security in East Asia and actively involve in the territorial disputes around the country so as to counter the threat of Chinese hegemony to the smaller ASEAN nations.

Speaking at an international security meeting in Singapore on Friday, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe offered to provide patrol ships, training and military surveillance equipment to Vietnam and other nations that have territorial disputes with China.

Japan, like other nations in East Asia, is dismayed by China's increasingly assertive efforts to take control of islands and expanses of ocean that are claimed by other Asian nations, including Japan.

''Japan will offer its utmost support for efforts by ASEAN member countries to ensure the security of the seas and skies and rigorously maintain freedom of navigation and overflight,'' he said.

Abe wants Japan to shed the passive role the country adopted since World War II and take more responsibility for maintaining regional stability.

''Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain,'' Abe said.

Japan, he said, would cooperate with the United States and other like-minded nations like Australia and India to uphold international rule of law and freedom of navigation.

Over the years, Japan has been moving slowly and carefully from its postwar role of a non-military power to play a larger security role in East Asia.

Ever since he took office in December 2012, Abe, a conservative, has been speeding up efforts towards changing Japan into a ''normal'' nation that can defend itself and its allies.

He said military equipment could be included in the aid that Japan would offer to Southeast Asian nations facing Chinese claims in the South China Sea. He highlighted some recent changes in Japanese foreign and defence policies, including the recent lifting of a ban on the export of military hardware.

''We are now able to send out Japan's superb defence equipment,'' he said, for purposes such as ''rescue, transportation, vigilance, surveillance and minesweeping.''

China has recently increased its pursuit of territorial claims in nearby seas, leading to tense exchanges with neighboring countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Japan.

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