Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday issued a fresh warning to China about its growing maritime activities near Japanese-controlled islets, pledging to engage in surveillance and intelligence activities to protect remote islands.
“We will demonstrate our intention not to allow a change in the status quo. We must conduct surveillance and intelligence activities for that purpose,” Abe said in his address to the Ground Self-Defense Force troops during an inspection ceremony at Camp Asaka, which straddles the border of Tokyo’s Nerima Ward and Saitama Prefecture.
China has stepped up maritime activities around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, a group of uninhabited islets claimed by China as the Diaoyu and by Taiwan as Tiaoyutai, after Tokyo bought three of them in September 2012 from their private owner.
Abe also repeated his policy goal of enabling Japan to take on a greater security role, saying he will “proceed with studying” whether to change the interpretation of the war-renouncing Constitution so it can engage in collective self-defense.
“I would like you all to discard the notion that the existence of defense forces itself can act as a deterrent,” Abe said.
At the ceremony attended by some 4,000 GSDF personnel, a U.S. amphibious assault vehicle was displayed for the first time. In addition to four amphibious vehicles covered by the budget for fiscal 2013, the Defense Ministry is considering buying two more with command functions in fiscal 2014 and more in fiscal 2015 and beyond, mainly for remote island defense.
Verbal skirmishing between Asia’s two biggest economies escalated after Beijing warned Tokyo that any hostile action in the skies against Chinese aircraft will be construed as an “act of war.”
“There are concerns that China is attempting to change the status quo by force, rather than by rule of law,” Abe said in an interview after a series of summits this month with regional leaders.
“But if China opts to take that path, then it won’t be able to emerge peacefully,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
“So it shouldn’t take that path, and many nations expect Japan to strongly express that view. And they hope that as a result, China will take responsible action in the international community,” Abe added in the interview published Saturday.