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 towards China as Beijing threatened to strike back ifprovoked.

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". Andthe defence ministry warned Japan not to underestimate China's resolve to take whatever measures were needed to protect itself.

Abe, interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, said Japanshould take the lead in guarding against what he said might bean attempt by China to use force to attain its diplomatic goals.

He said he had realised at recent meetings with South EastAsian leaders that the region sought leadership from Tokyo interms of 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."

China took issue with a Japanese media report saying Abe hadapproved a policy for Japan to shoot down foreign drones thatignore warnings to leave its airspace.

"Don't underestimate the Chinese army's resolute will anddetermination to protect China's territorial sovereignty,"Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said on the ministry'swebsite. "If Japan does resort to enforcement measures likeshooting down aircraft, that is a serious provocation to us, anact of war.

"We will undertake decisive action to strike back, withevery consequence borne by the side that caused the trouble,"Geng added.


Relations have deteriorated sharply in the past year, withthe main sticking point being conflicting claims to uninhabitedislets in the East China Sea, known in Japan as the Senkakuislands 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 Asian statescontesting its claims to large swathes of the South China 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 saidany attempt to contain China either amounted to a distorted viewof China or "the rendering of an image of the 'Chinese menace'to achieve 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.

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