Japan PM says ready to be more assertive against China-media


TOKYO, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in aninterview published on Saturday, said Japan was ready to be moreassertive in guarding against what he said might be an attemptby China to use force to attain its diplomatic goals.

But a top retired Chinese diplomat said any move by Tokyo tocontain China could amount to an attempt to conceal ulterior motives in the region and prove to be "extremely dangerous".

Abe, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, said he hadrealised during recent meetings with South East Asian leadersthat the region was looking for leadership from Tokyo in termsof security amid China's more forthright diplomacy.

"There are concerns that China is attempting to change thestatus quo by force, rather than by rule of law. But if Chinaopts to take that path, then it won't be able to emergepeacefully," he told the newspaper.

"So it shouldn't take that path and many nations expectJapan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as aresult, China will take responsible action in the internationalcommunity."

Relations between Japan and China have deteriorated sharplyin the past year, with the main sticking point being conflictingclaims to uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, known inJapanese as the Senkaku islands and in China as Diaoyu.

Ties have taken a further battering over visits by Japaneselawmakers this month to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo honouringboth war dead and Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals.

China is also at odds with several South East Asiancountries, which contest its claims to wide swathes of the SouthChina Sea.

Former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, addressing aforum in Beijing, said that Japan hoped to enlist the UnitedNations and the international community to curb China's actionsin the region, according to media reports.

Tang made no reference to Abe's latest comments but said anyattempt to contain China either amounted to a distorted view ofChina or "the rendering of an image of the 'Chinese menace' toachieve an ulterior political goal".

"I hope it's the former, because if it's the latter, notonly is it futile, it is also extremely dangerous."

President Xi Jinping adopted a more conciliatory tone at aconference on diplomacy this week, saying good relations withneighbours were crucial to a stable foreign policy.

Abe took office last year for a rare second term and is seenas a hawkish nationalist with a conservative agenda thatincludes revising a post-war pacifist constitution drafted bythe United States, strengthening Japan's defence posture andrecasting wartime history with a less apologetic tone.

He is likely to visit the Yasukuni shrine by the end of theyear, a move certain to outrage China, which sees the site asglorifying war criminals.

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