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Japan plans more proactive role in Asian security

SINGAPORE -- Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Friday that his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia, and called for the rule of law to be upheld in the region.

Laying out a vision of Tokyo as a counterweight to the growing might of China, Abe offered Japan's help to regional partners “to ensure security of the seas and skies.”

He said Japan and the United States stood ready to bolster security cooperation with Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“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,” he said in a keynote speech at an annual Asia security forum in Singapore.

Abe said Japan will provide 10 new coast guard patrol ships to Philippines, which has one of Asia's most poorly equipped security forces.

He said three such vessels have already been provided to Indonesia and Vietnam may receive similar assistance.

The United States Saturday backed Abe's plans to reshape the role of Japan's little-used military, in the strongest comments of support yet from Tokyo's major ally on the move.

Pentagon chief Hagel told the forum the United States “supports” Abe's effort to “reorient its Collective Self Defense posture toward actively helping build a peaceful and resilient regional order.”

To complement Japan's efforts, the United States and Japan “have begun revising our defense guidelines for the first time in nearly two decades,” Hagel told fellow defense chiefs, senior military officials, diplomats and security experts attending the annual conference.

“This will ensure that our alliance evolves to reflect the shifting security environment, and the growing capabilities of Japan's Self-Defense Forces,” Hagel said.

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